Call for extended libraries deadline rejected

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SENIOR councillors have rejected pleas to extend a deadline for North Yorkshire communities to save their libraries from the axe.

A motion by Liberal Democrats on North Yorkshire County Council to give the public more time to come up with business plans to take on their running of their libraries with a six-month extension to the current October 31 deadline, was overwhelmingly opposed at a full council meeting at County Hall in Northallerton yesterday.

The Tory-led county council has faced a public outcry over its controversial plans to enforce a series of library closures to counter cutbacks totalling £69m across all its services.

But Coun Chris Metcalfe, executive member for the library and information service, told members at the meeting that the county council would not abandon communities trying to keep their libraries open.

“The county council has set up a team of experts to help our communities to keep their libraries going,” he said.

“We are being extremely proactive. We are not setting communities up to fail but helping them get to where they want to be.”

Coun Bill Hoult, who submitted the motion to be debated at yesterday’s full council meeting, said the current deadline of October 31 for communities to submit the business plans is unrealistic.

As many as 23 of the authority’s 42 libraries were thought to have been in the running for closure, although the number of sites at risk has now been reduced to eight.

The libraries which could be axed are at Hunmanby, Barlby, Bilton and East Ayton as well as Embsay, Gargrave, Great Ayton and Masham.

Council officials are holding talks with the public in the hope community volunteers will take on the running of the remaining under-threat locations.

The council has had more than 6,000 written responses and 2,000 people have attended public meetings to find out more about becoming involved in running the library services.