MP seeks reassurances over community library proposals

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A north Yorkshire MP is seeking reassurances over the fate of libraries across the county amid fears some could be axed.

Public talks began last year on plans which could see community groups manage the running of twenty libraries across North Yorkshire or they could face closure as council chiefs looks to save £1.6m.

At present North Yorkshire County Council runs over thirty libraries and it says volunteer support will be needed at all libraries, even those it is proposing to continue running, as it struggles to balance its books in the light of budget cuts which has seen its spending falling by some £167m.

Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP, says a successful community model has already been adopted at Bilton and Woodfield Community library but he is concerned that if the scheme is widened more libraries would be at risk of closure.

He has written to Richard Flinton, chief executive, of North Yorkshire County Council seeking assurances that if the community model does not work at three of his local libraries at Knaresborough, Starbeck and Boroughbridge the authority will guarantee they will not be allowed to close.

Mr Jones said: “I want a guarantee from the county council that they will not allow the services to diminish and that, if any new arrangement is introduced, they will intervene immediately if the facilities offered by our much-loved libraries decline.”

County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library and information services, said the existing community libraries had been a success and warned that cuts to council budgets meant the status quo could not remain. But he said the authority was “striving to ensure” as many libraries as possible remained open.

He said support and help would be given to anyone volunteering and said the community model could mean library buildings could be used for other purposes such as meeting places.