Tight timescale for groups hoping to run libraries in Northamptonshire revealed

Northamptonshire County Council has outlined the tough criteria for any group looking to take over their local library.
Northamptonshire County Council has outlined the tough criteria for any group looking to take over their local library.

Groups interested in taking over their libraries in Northamptonshire will need to have a formal bid ready in little over two months' time.

A fortnight ago, Northamptonshire County Council ratified plans to close 21 small libraries across the county as part of a controversial £40 million raft of savings.

The authority is offering community groups the chance to take over running individual facilities under service agreements.

But the cabinet meeting at One Angel Square yesterday heard how tight the timescales will be for any interested parties.

Councillor Sylvia Hughes, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said groups would have to submit formal proposals by the end of may with the hope of taking them over in August.

"We are dealing with and working with local libraries to get the best deal for them," she said.

However, Steve Thatcher, speaking at the meeting, said plans to take over Finedon's small library would require his team of campaigners to raise £20,000.

He was also concerned the council had "reneged" on plans to leave community groups with 100 per cent of the book stock in place.

Speaking after the meeting, the 66-year-old former civil servant said groups will find the deadline difficult.

"The funding opportunities that we have tried so far have come back blank," he said.

"That is a tight timescale especially if you are looking at things like National Lottery funding, the lead-in time for that sort of funding takes so long.

"We are looking at crowd-funding the project, but we can't do that every year."

The lease of running Finedon's library alone, will cost Mr Thatcher's group £4,000 a year.

The cabinet meeting yesterday revealed how fixtures and fittings and at least 80 per cent of library stock will be available to the community groups as part of any new service agreements.

But computer hardware and self-service terminals will not come as standard.

Groups can choose between anything from a cheaper "bronze" to a more expensive "platinum" package as part of their agreements.

A £6,000-a-year bronze package would see the new providers given 500 new books a year to stock the shelves.

However, the cost of adding a Library Management System, complete with a scanner and a terminal, would be an extra £3,500 on top of that.

Training and the ability to pick selective stock will only be available as bolt-on extras.

If you are looking to take over your library get in touch with us by emailing editor@northantsnews.co.uk.