Council taxpayers in Lincolnshire are picking up a £728,000 bill from “the great Tory library betrayal” according to Deeping St James Labour councillor Phil Dilks.
Last week Coun Dilks was told the bill would be about £250,000 but he now expects it will rocket to £1million.
On Tuesday Coun Dilks, fellow campaigners and library users tied yellow ribbons to railings outside Market Deeping Library in the forlorn hope it might be spared.
But Lincolnshire County Council’s executive met that day and rubber stamped plans that will see 15 core libraries retained and 30 others, including Market Deeping, shoved into the hands of volunteers – or closed where volunteers cannot be found.
Coun Dilks branded the executive’s decision as “absolutely disgraceful” and said Labour were not out on a limb in opposing the cuts as South Holland and The Deepings MP John Hayes and Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh were also against the cutbacks.
Coun Dilks revealed the costs of the library plans on Monday.
He said: “Only last week, I was told officially that the total costs so far were ‘in the order of £250,000’. But I have insisted on seeing the full breakdown of figures. And the truth is three times worse than they have admitted. By the time this incompetent bunch have finished decimating our libraries, they’ll have spent close on £1million of our money.”
He said the Tories made a pre-election pledge to increase library access and opening hours, but opening hours have been cut by around 40 per cent – and Market Deeping Library now opens 17 hours a week instead of 30.
Some volunteer groups have already dropped offers to run libraries and Coun Dilks believes more will follow because they can’t afford to take them on.
Mr Hayes asked the Conservative county council leader Martin Hill to rethink the library plans. In a letter to Deepings campaigners, Mr Hayes said it “would be incompatible with the county council’s obligations” not to have a library in a settlement the size of Market Deeping and Deeping St James combined.
The county council says the 15 core libraries will be complemented by up to 40 community hubs, including library services developed in partnership with community groups.
The county will run existing libraries on the hit list until September 30 this year. It will also go out to tender to see if an outside organisation can run the whole service, including the 15 core libraries, with support services for those taken over by volunteers.