Northamptonshire library campaigners 'anxious' about county council's new plan

No agreement has been reached about the community taking over the Carnegie library at Irchester.
No agreement has been reached about the community taking over the Carnegie library at Irchester.

Library campaigners say they there is much ‘uncertainty and anxiety’ over the county council’s new plan which would see 17 libraries handed over to the community without support.

Yesterday the county council announced library reorganisation plan mark two for Northamptonshire’s 36 libraries as part of the unveiling of its 2019/20 budget which must deliver £43m of savings.

Chief executive Theresa Grant declared it had been devised after much discussion with community groups and other councils.

But a more detailed report published later yesterday afternoon has met with concern from some library supporters who took to social media saying it was not much better than the original plan which ended up in a high court battle. The council lost the case after the judge decided the authority had not made the decision properly.

Sylvia Davis tweeted: “Some communities are now in real shock & concerned about the financial implications of no longer being part of the statutory system. Many more answers needed.”

Donna Scott tweeted: “That’s an enormous amount of goodwill and expertise to suddenly find. It’s not that much different to before on paper.”

The new plan will see the council keep control of 14 of its 36 libraries and give support to a further five. The other 17 will be handed over to community groups to manage, but a number including Finedon, Irchester and Abington do not have any concrete plans and could face closure.

The first proposal, which was put forward in the midst of the council’s financial crisis in March, planned to hand over 21 libraries to independent groups or close.

Alison Richard from the 21 libraries group, who was instrumental in the fight earlier this year against the earlier proposal, said: “For many of the other 17 libraries, the future still remains very uncertain and considerable anxiety remains in those communities which they serve.”

The libraries that will remain run by NCC are: Corby, Kettering, Rushden, Wellingborough, Daventry, Towcester, Weston Favell, Northampton Central, Hunsbury, Irthlingborough, Oundle, Duston, Brixworth and Brackley.

The five libraries that will be community managed with NCC support are: Desborough, Thrapston, Earls Barton, Deanshanger and Middleton Cheney.

The libraries at Rothwell, Raunds, Higham Ferrers, Long Buckby, Far Cotton, Woodford Halse, Wollaston, Moulton, Kingsthorpe, Roade, Wootton, Danesholme, St James, Abington, Burton Latimer, Finedon and Irchester will become community managed.

In a report to go before the cabinet next week Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman says that following the judicial review the council carried out an in-depth analysis of each library to identify alternative options that are bespoke to each individual service and area.

The report says: “Our aim is to consider all available options to try and keep as much of the library provision open and available to the residents as possible.”

The authority has identified almost £1m of 106 cash (funds received from the council from developers) which may be put towards the libraries although some of the libraries will fare better than others, with some having no 106 cash allocated.

Subject to cabinet approving the library review an eight week consultation will start on December 12 and run until February 6.