Huntingdonshire libraries at risk: ‘Change is inevitable’

THE future of four Huntingdonshire libraries will be decided in the next six months after council chiefs agreed to halve spending over the next five years.

Libraries at Warboys, Sawtry, Buckden and Yaxley are among 13 facilities recommended for alternative service delivery across the county following an assessment by Cambridgeshire County Council officers which found they are all based in areas of ‘low community need.’

Communities with low need are those with good access to services and little evidence of social deprivation.

Last week, county councillors approved slashing the library services budget for 2011 to 2016 by �3.2 million with an initial cut of �445,000 expected from April.

Plans are to save money by combining libraries and other services to create community hubs or by turning the facilities over to volunteers to run. Closure is described as a “last resort.”

The county council’s head of libraries, archives and information Christine May said: “We know every community does not want to lose its library. We have got to focus on continuing library services in the community, but not in the way it is currently delivered.

“The main thing is that the community still gets a community library. We are doing everything we can to bring that about.”

Most Read

Last summer officers conducted a review of library services across the county looking at community and performance factors.

Warboys and Sawtry were two of seven libraries which scored low on performance and community need.

Yaxley and Buckden had high performance scores, but were not deemed to have high community need, while Ramsey and Papworth scored low for performance but were considered to be areas of high community need.

A second stage of consultation is due to kick off from next month. Council officers will be visiting all 13 shortlisted libraries to discuss future options.

Final proposals will then be submitted to cabinet in late summer and implemented at the beginning of next year.

Ms May said: “We are about to launch a consultation which will go out to each of those libraries individually, so we can discuss what the options might be for the future.

“They are the people that live in the community - they know it best. They might know of options or possibilities. One community might be very interested in running their library and others may say why don’t you look at co-location.

“It does not mean that there will be a change at each of those libraries. The county council is just focusing its operation on communities with most need.”

Volunteers at Somersham library, who took over the running of the facility after funding was cut nine years ago, have said they would not recommend it to other communities.

But county councillor for Warboys Victor Lucas said change was inevitable. He is hoping to arrange for the first consultation to be held in the village.

He said “Every single non-market town library is finding itself in this situation. What we want to do is get the best option out of this change for Warboys.

“By being involved early in the picture with some detailed examination of the options that will give more time for consultation with the community.”