There are no guarantees on the future of libraries, according to North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).
Executive member for library services Coun Chris Metcalfe (Con) said no assurances could be given, responding to Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones’ calls for NYCC to intervene before libraries are allowed to decline.
Mr Jones’ concerned request to NYCC comes almost three months after it launched a three-month consultation on cutting £3.6m from its libraries budget by 2020.
He said: “I want a guarantee that NYCC 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.”
However, Coun Metcalfe told the Harrogate Advertiser that, as a politician, Mr Jones would have to accept that guarantees on the future of libraries could not be given.
“I am optimistic that we will connect with communities and come up with a proposal, but what that final picture will be I am not in a position to say,” he said.
“Andrew has to appreciate he is a member of a coalition government that voted in these austerity measures through which NYCC has experienced severe cuts to our central government revenue.
“When you vote for less money you have to look at different ways of providing services. We could have easily taken the easy route and closed down all the very small, uneconomic libraries and that would have been the easiest way to deal with it but we’re not like that, we’re pragmatic.
“It has to be at a lesser cost because quite honestly we don’t have the money. We have to have £93m over the next four years, and that is at a time when there are an awful lot of pressures on our budget.”
The consultation on libraries closes in February 2015. Plans include withdrawing council staff and asking volunteers to step in, leading to widespread fears that many libraries could close.
Mr Jones has written to NYCC’s chief executive Richard Flinton asking for assurances that if the community model doesn’t work at the three libraries that NYCC will guarantee this will not be allowed.
The story so far:
In November 2014 NYCC announced plans to cut £3.6m from the libraries budget. This would be achieved by cutting staff and bringing in volunteer groups to
libraries including Knaresborough, Ripon, Starbeck, and Pateley Bridge.
It has already saved £2m, with nine libraries already community-managed, but now needs to save an additional £1.6m.