Have Your Say: Support for libraries after public backlash

Libraries will be given staff support under revised proposals 101018M1h.
Libraries will be given staff support under revised proposals 101018M1h.

County council chiefs are pushing ahead with plans to axe staff at libraries across the Harrogate district but will offer support to volunteers to help keep them open.

More than 17,000 people have responded to a consultation on the future of library services across North Yorkshire after it was revealed the council needed to slash £1.6m from its libraries budget.

Under the original proposals the authority planned to cut staff at larger town libraries, including Knaresborough and Ripon, by 75 per cent and withdraw staff completely from smaller centres, including Starbeck and Pateley Bridge.

But following a major public backlash, council bosses have now agreed that community-managed libraries would need some dedicated staff input to succeed and more support would be needed in busier centres.

Cllr Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library and information services, said: “We have listened to what people have had to say and have taken on board the fact people think community-led libraries would need some dedicated support to be successful.”

Under the revised proposals Pateley Bridge, Starbeck and Boroughbridge, would have between five and seven hours support.

The larger, busier libraries in Knaresborough and Ripon, will retain a 40 per cent staffing level alongside volunteers - an increase on the 25 per cent originally proposed.

Harrogate library will act as a “hub” for other libraries in the borough, but will lose 40 per cent of its staff.

The council says it has no choice but to make reductions in the face of government cutbacks which mean it has to find a total of £167 million in savings by 2020.

North Yorkshire already has nine community libraries, which are staffed by volunteers, with books and professional support provided by the county council.

Cllr Metcalfe said: “We now want to make sure that many more community libraries can be successfully introduced in order to retain a much-cherished county-wide library service. We cannot secure that service without communities stepping forward into the breach, but we also acknowledge that they need some ongoing dedicated support.”

The council’s Executive will consider the report on July 7.

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