Council says no to buying Higham Ferrers library building

Higham Ferrers Library
Higham Ferrers Library

The future of Higham Ferrers Library is in the balance after town councillors voted against buying the town’s library building at an extraordinary meeting.

The library was earmarked for closure after cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council said they could no longer afford to maintain many smaller libraries across the county.

The town council held their emergency meeting to decide whether they would purchase the building, the former parish rooms in Midland Road, for £367,500 or lease it for £33,000pa.

They had already set aside £60,000 in their budget for 2018/19 and had secured £24,621 in other funding.

The council’s own survey in December showed that, out of 423 responses, 95 per cent of people wanted to keep a library in Higham and 80 per cent would be willing to pay extra council tax to facilitate it.

At a fiery meeting attended by several members of the public, members of the council agreed not to buy the building but did say that they were prepared to back a community-run book lending service.

This would see a community group made up of volunteers formed to operate a library which would offer book lending services only - but would not include issuing bus and disabled passes, rhyme time, computer access, printing, reading challenge or premises.

It would have to operate from a different building than the current one.

There is, as yet, no official community group set up to manage the bid for book lending services and the deadline for submissions to the county council is in a matter of weeks.

Higham Mayor Jason Smithers, who chaired the meeting and is also a county councillor, said: “We voted to keep a library service in Higham but against keeping the current building.

“There were commercial reasons around the decision.

“There’s no official group that has come forward to run the library at the moment but there are people who want to volunteer and as a council we will do everything we can to assist and help.

“This is a very difficult situation and our libraries are dear to everyone.

“But ultimately it’s a county council issue. The commissioners are in now and there’s a possibility that they will be having a look at the cuts and stopping library closures.

“When I was elected to the county council I voted against these cuts. When we go to unitary we don’t want the same old cronies that have destroyed the county by taking these decisions only to do this again.”