‘Unreasonable’ time constraints imposed on groups battling to save Northamptonshire libraries

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A town council looking at taking over the running of a library in the face of county council cuts says the timescales involved are ‘unreasonable’.

As part of Northamptonshire County Council’s plans to save £115m over the next four years, library services across the county are being reviewed.

Along with other medium and smaller-sized libraries, Higham Ferrers Library would close under two of the three options being proposed. Under the third it would become a community managed library.

Any groups wishing to take over the running of the library has to put forward an Expression of Interest to the county council by January 13, 2018.

Higham Ferrers Town Council says that the ‘unreasonable’ time constraints being imposed and the size of the library mean that it is the only group in a position to run it and that this can only be done by raising council tax.

The town council has to set its budget before a decision about the library is made by the county council.

If the town council decides to take over the running of the library, it would have to buy or lease the building and would be responsible for building costs and any staffing costs.

The building is estimated to be in excess of £300,000, with a market valuation due on December 22.

The county council would be responsible for funding books and IT provision under a two-year agreement.

A spokesman for the town council said: “The town council is trying to gather all the information it needs to be make a reasoned and balanced decision, at the same time as trying to set budgets for 2018/19.

“The town council won’t know which option the county council has chosen until late February, which is after the town council has had to set its budget and then by March 31 it has to provide a full business case and submit a formal expression of interest.

“The library is only one of the services that may be affected by cuts at the county council.

“The full impact of other cuts on Higham Ferrers is not yet known. The town council has to also factor this unknown into their decision making.”

If the town council did take on the running of the library, it would be handed over by the end of September 2018.

Residents have been urged to give their views to the county council about the proposed cuts via www.northamptonshire.gov.uk.

For more information visit www.highamferrers-tc.gov.uk.