Decision soon on handover of eleven North Northamptonshire libraries to community groups

Earls Barton library is one of eleven in the north of the county that look likely to be handed over to community groups.
Earls Barton library is one of eleven in the north of the county that look likely to be handed over to community groups.

A decision to hand over 11 libraries in North Northamptonshire to community groups is likely to be made next week.

The long running saga of the future of the county’s library service, which has involved a judicial review at the high court, could be coming to a close, as cabinet members on Northamptonshire county council are likely to agree plans on Tuesday(May 14) for a reduced service that will see some libraries put into the hands of willing volunteers.

The plan is to keep 14 of the county’s current 36 libraries under statutory provision, hand five over to community groups with a statutory provision insurance and a further 17 will become community managed.

North Northamptonshire will have six statutory libraries – in Rushden, Irthlingborough, Oundle, Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and 11 libraries will be run by the community. These are Higham Ferrers, Raunds, Danesholme, Burton Latimer, Rothwell, Earls Barton, Finedon, Irchester, Wollaston. Desborough and Thrapston libraries will be community managed and have additional statutory protection.

The plans have consulted on for many months with more than 2,200 response to the consultation. The next step is for each group to submit a business case and negotiate with the county council about the proposals. The handover to community groups should happen in October.

But there are no guarantees and if the community groups and volunteers stepping forward to take on the libraries are unable to make the venture work, the libraries will close.

Victoria Marshall from the Rothwell Community Library Trust says she is glad the episode is coming to a close. The library in Market Hill has had a team of 36 volunteers step forward to help run it and has also entered an agreement with the Creating Tomorrow Multi academy trust. Six form students from the trust will help run the library sessions and learn customer service skills.

Victoria Marshall said: “We wanted a library for the town that is going to be around for the next 20-30 years. Because we did not receive any support from our town, borough or county council the only option has been to take it on ourselves. We have received some support from some local charities and we will be applying for funding.

And we should also be getting some 106 contributions which will make a considerable difference.

We are not in a position to buy the building – as the cost is £460,000 – but that is not to say that cannot happen in the future.”

The situation is different to each library setting, with some deciding to buy their building and others planning to rent. The libraries also have varying levels of volunteers willing to help.

The libraries which are community managed but have a statutory protection will be able to buy their building at a reduced price of 25 percent below market value. The other community managed libraries will have to pay full price.

The county council is offering a reduced rental cost to community managed libraries.

The authority also plans to help the community managed libraries by employing two co-ordinators and will also provide a book restock, access to the computer system and pay insurances.

The service has been cut back by 20 percent already with a large number of librarians being made redundant and opening hours significantly pared back.

The situation across the North Northants proposed community libraries:

Higham Ferrers: It is proposed the library remains in its current Midland Road location before relocating to a new build community centre.

Raunds: The town council and Raunds Community Library Trust will run the HIgh Street library.

Thrapston: It is proposed that the friends of group will run the library.

Danesholme: The library will remain at its borough council owned location in Danesholme Square and be managed by the Danesholme Community Centre.

Burton Latimer: The town council plans to buy the High Street building from the county council and run it with members of the community.

Wollaston: The library will be run by volunteers with financial support from a local businessman.

Earls Barton: The plan is for a charitable incorporated organisation set up by the friends of group to run the library.

Desborough: A new charitable organisation is being set up to buy the building and run the library service.

Finedon: The library is based at Finedon town hall it is proposed that a friends of group will take over the running. The town council has agreed to support the running costs for a limited time period.

Irchester: The parish council and the county council are continuing to discuss property arrangement and the council is appealing for volunteers to help run the Carnegie built library.

Rothwell: The plan is for a charitable incorporated organisation set up by the friends of group to run the library and work with a multi academy trust to provide library training for students.