Death knell sounds for our libraries

LAST STAND: The torchlight protest at Market Deeping Library with Phil Dilks, Judy Stevens, Andrew and Julie Bowell and Mayor Xan Collins. SG211113-228TW
LAST STAND: The torchlight protest at Market Deeping Library with Phil Dilks, Judy Stevens, Andrew and Julie Bowell and Mayor Xan Collins. SG211113-228TW
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Protestors in The Deepings are fighting on to save their council-run library although it appears doomed.

Final proposals for slashing £2million from the county council libraries’ budget mean the authority will wash its hands of 32 libraries – and around 150 jobs – as well as cut opening hours at main libraries like Spalding.

Campaigners mounted a torchlight protest at Market Deeping Library on Thursday, only to hear at an extraordinary council meeting the next day that it remains earmarked for closure.

Deeping St James county councillor Phil Dilks says no groups are volunteering to run Market Deeping Library because the council is offering £5,000 a year while running costs are £25,000 and “people are not daft”.

A report asking councillors to rubber-stamp the plans goes to the Community and Public Safety Scrutiny Committee on Monday and to the nine-strong executive the following day.

Coun Dilks said: “This bleak report suggests no change to the unjustified, draconian plan by Lincolnshire County Council to close Deepings Library.”

He said people from The Deepings had spoken with one voice – 9,000 people backed a petition to keep the library – while “senior Conservatives disgracefully tried to pretend only one per cent of the population” were against.

Lincolnshire is likely to end up with more libraries than it had before according to county councillor Nick Worth.

Volunteers were asked to step forward during the council’s consultation on its plans to pull the plug on 32 libraries, including Market Deeping, Holbeach, Donington, Pinchbeck and Crowland.

Coun Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “So far, we’ve had expressions of interest for 24 existing libraries, as well as seven communities wanting to create brand new facilities.

“That means that under these plans we’re likely to end up with even more static libraries than we started with.”

The council is adding 146 extra mobile library stops in its revised proposals, but cutting opening hours at some libraries on the “safe list”. Spalding’s hours go down from 50 to 45.

It’s also looking at developing online services and installing more public computers in safe-list libraries.

But Coun Phil Dilks says the council has gone back on its pledge to keep the busiest libraries in the busiest communities.

He said: “The Deepings is in the top 15 populations and busiest libraries.

“The Deepings is a fantastic community when it comes to volunteering but it is no surprise that no group wants to take over the library and sack our excellent librarians.

“With running costs of £25,000 a year, without any wages, the council’s offer of £5,000 a year to take on the library does not add up.

“Deepings people are not daft and deserve to keep a proper library, not a couple of bookshelves run by volunteers for a couple of hours a week.”

The campaign to keep Deepings Library was cross-party and had the backing of South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes.

Labour’s Coun Dilks will go on fighting until the Tory executive makes its decision on Tuesday.

• The deadline for expressing an interest in running libraries is extended to January 31.