Meetings to ease fears on library closures

A SERIES of public meetings is being planned by North Yorkshire County Council to allay concerns over controversial plans for library closures to help enforce millions of pounds in savings.

Officials from the authority will be meeting the public face-to-face to outline the proposals to shut as many as 23 of its 42 libraries.

The closures are part of a massive programme of financial savings across the council's services which is having to be brought in to counter the Government's cutbacks in public sector spending.

One of the first public meetings about the planned closures will be held at Scarborough Library at 6pm on Wednesday next week.

The council's executive member for adult and community services, Chris Metcalfe, said: "We know that many people are upset about the possible closure of their local library, but like every local authority across the country we have to make significant cuts over the next four years as part of the Government's measures to tackle the public finance deficit.

"We would like to hear from community groups and individuals who are prepared to maintain a library presence, or take over the running of the existing libraries including paying the rent, rates and energy bills.

"We know this is a big ask, but we hope that the people of North Yorkshire are up for this challenge."

The council announced plans in November to make cuts totalling 20.5m from its budgets for services including adult social care and libraries.

The authority is having to enforce savings of more than 69m across all of its departments, and 2.3m will need to be cut from the existing annual library budget of 7.5m over the next two years.

Councillors have stressed that communities need to step in to run their local libraries – or face losing them.

A deal which has seen residents take on the running of the library in Hawes is being seen as a model for the future.