More than 30 community groups are on standby to run Lincolnshire’s libraries as a date is finally set for a legal challenge to the changes.
Lincolnshire County Council is to defend its decision to slash the number of libraries it runs from 47 to 15 before a High Court judge in London on July 8 and 9 after a legal challenge by protest group Save Lincolnshire Libraries.
The council wants to save almost £2 million a year by handing over the running of libraries, including Crowland, Donington, Holbeach and Pinchbeck, to so-called “community hubs”.
Almost 40 groups, including community centres, parish councils and educational establishments, have put in business plans to take over the libraries.
Holbeach county councillor Nick Worth and executive member for libraries said: “I’m delighted that we’ve got business cases in for all the libraries in Lincolnshire.
“All but seven have been accepted and of those, every one of them is straightforward to address and I’d be very surprised if they don’t go through eventually.
“Volunteers from the community hubs that have been given the green light will have training over the next couple of months and if the judicial review goes in our favour, they’ll be ready to go.”
Groups with more work to do on their business plans include Sutton Bridge, Market Deeping, Swineshead and Kirton.
Until the judicial review is concluded, libraries are open with reduced hours from today and run by about 114 staff, with another 24 to be recruited over the next few weeks, according to Lincolnshire County Council.
A council spokesman also confirmed that 35 librarians have been made redundant of which only two of these were compulsory.
The spokesman said: “Communities won’t be able to get their hubs up and running until the outcome of the judical review is known.
“In the meantime, the new frontline library structure will have 138 posts when fully staffed.
“Currently, there are 24 vacancies and in line with council policies, priority is being given to staff who are at risk of redundancy.”
Simon Draper of Save Lincolnshire Libraries said: “I welcome the decision of the county council not to implement its plans to get rid of 30 libraries until the court decides.
“However, I am very disappointed that it is still pressing ahead with its plans to get rid of jobs, cut away the mobile library service from large numbers of villages and slash the hours of the remaining libraries.”