Community hub focus in revised Lincolnshire libraries cuts plan

Lincolnshire County Council has released its revised proposals for the provision of library services in the county after a critical consultation.

As previously reported, the results of a public consultation found that respondents were firmly against the proposals to shut 30 libraries in favour of mobile libraries or community-led library services, leading to the loss of around 170 jobs in order to make £2 million savings.

Due to the outcome of the consultation, the council then had to reconsider the proposals in order to make savings.

Now, under a new revision, there will still be 10 “Tier 1” libraries, such as Lincoln Central, which will see no changes to provisions.

Meanwhile, the five “Tier 2” libraries will also remain the same, however instead of only being open 25 hours a week, they will run for up to 31 hours per week instead — although Bourne will be open for 45 hours due an agreement with South Kesteven District Council.

Reading and music groups, schools library service, prison services, Bookstart, Listening Lincs, Call Connect, and other online and telephone services will also continue to run as normal.

The main changes come at Tier 3 and 4 levels, regarding community-run services and mobile libraries.

Now, the council would like to see up to 40 community-run libraries, with 29 communities made up of more than 550 households receiving large mobile stops of at least two hours a month.

The council also intends to raise the number of Tier 4 mobile stops, upon proof that at least six people use the service for at least 30 minutes per month.

If there is no demand or use of a stop within a community, the mobile stop would be pulled.

High community uptake

So far, there have been 42 expressions of interest from communities in running their own library, with 25 existing facilities receiving at least one bid.

Birchwood, Cherry Willingham, Crowland, Nettleham and North Hykeham libraries all received more than one bid.

In seven cases, there have been bid made to the council for a community hub library where a library did not exist before.

There are still six places — Sutton on Sea, The Deepings, Wainfleet, Scotter, Keelby and Conningsby/Tattershall — that have received no expressions of interest.

However, the council have extended the time that a community can register a bid for a library to January 31, 2014.

In return for taking on a Tier 3 service, the council will offer at least 4,000 items of stock, a £15k one-off investment, £5,167 revenue grant, a 10 year lease with a four-year peppercorn rent, IT provisions, Library Development Officers, support and training, and further Community Advisors if needed during the transition period.

During the transition period, the council will also aim to keep the current library provisions open at 60% of usual hours until the hubs are ready to operate — but this can be no later than March 31, 2015.

While some bids have proposed to try to keep on staff working in libraries, the revised plans will still see over 35 full-time employees lost, and 102 fewer posts overall.

Where a community hub fails to run, the area will be reverted to a mobile library provision instead.

Finally, the new proposals will mean that the County Council will not make its target of £2 million in savings per year, but £1.73 million in savings by the end of the transitional period.

Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “One thing that was clear from the consultation was that rural communities valued their mobile services, so 146 more mobile stops have been included in the revised proposals.

“So far, we’ve had expressions of interest for 24 existing libraries, as well as seven communities wanting to create brand new facilities. This means under these plans we’re likely to end up with even more static libraries than we started with.

“[…] under the revised proposals we would give communities additional support and time, helping them lay firm foundations for the future.

“We realise there were people who wanted services to remain as they are, but with £2 million less to spend that won’t be possible.

“As Executive Councillor for Libraries I welcome these revised proposals. If adopted they would enable us to respond to concerns raised within the consultation but would still mean that we continue to provide a comprehensive library service across the county, but one that is far more efficient, giving much better value for money.”

The Executive will make the final decision on the future of Lincolnshire’s library services on December 3.