Stop digging a hole over the libraries plea

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Tories who run Lincolnshire County Council are under fire for pressing ahead with plans to shelve 30 libraries while facing the prospect of a second costly judicial review.

Council bosses want to put the whole service out to tender – with 15 staffed ‘core’ libraries and 30 run by volunteers – and some as yet unnamed heritage attractions could be thrown in as the council bids to save £120million a year.

Meantime, everyone who believes libraries are a vital public service can make their voice heard in the elections on May 7.

County councillor Phil Dilks

But Labour’s shadow executive county council member for libraries, Phil Dilks, says it’s nonsense to draw up an almost copycat plan to the one that saw the council humiliated in court.

He said: “When you’re in a hole, it’s best to stop digging.

“But Nick Worth, Martin Hill and the rest of the Tories who run Lincolnshire County Council seem bent on taking us even deeper into the mire by pressing ahead regardless with their fag-packet scheme which will decimate more than 30 libraries.

“They’ve disgracefully wasted £1million of public money so far on this nonsense, including over £100,000 on the first judicial review when they were totally humiliated by a judge ruling they had acted unlawfully.

“There is still time to stop this political pantomime and turn a new page on libraries by sitting down and discussing sensible savings that don’t mean decimation of our library service.

“Meantime, everyone who believes libraries are a vital public service can make their voice heard in the elections on May 7. When candidates knock on your door asking for your vote, ask what they are doing right now to save our council-run libraries.”

The council is undertaking a competitive procurement process, following an approach by Greenwich Leisure Limited, a not-for-profit organisation interested in running the libraries.

Council officer Tony McGinty said: “Although we potentially face a second legal challenge, we intend to continue working on the procurement of the new-look service.

“The need to make substantial savings within the service remains, and it’s important we do what we can to achieve this.

“And we’re confident that, under our proposals, we can do this in a way that both saves money and creates a library service that is fit for the 21st century.”

The council operates heritage sites and a reference to them will be included in the contract notice.

Mr McGinty said this will “leave the door open” for those services to be run “by someone else on our behalf”, although no decisions have yet been made.