Lifeline for libraries

Celebrating Ayton library's closure reprieve are East Ayton School pupil Poppy Hudson, Sam Penny, Josh Penny, and Hannah Stephenson. 110745b.
Celebrating Ayton library's closure reprieve are East Ayton School pupil Poppy Hudson, Sam Penny, Josh Penny, and Hannah Stephenson. 110745b.

A LIFEline has been given to Scarborough’s under threat libraries thanks to a new £650,000 fund.

County councillors have established the new six-figure pot to create more time for reshaping the county’s library service.

The news has been welcomed by thousands of supporters for four local libraries deemed risk by North Yorkshire County Council.

Scalby, Ayton, Eastfield, and Hunmanby Libraries were all threatened with the axe as the local authority looked to make £2.3 million savings by closing 24 of its 42 libraries.

However after consultations, which are due to end this month, the council says it is now taking in to account the “clear message” arising from the public. Cllr Derek Bastiman, who campaigned alongside Cllr Andrew Backhouse to save Scalby Library, said he is delighted the power of people has paid off.

He said: “This is excellent news and I am absolutely over the moon.

“There is no doubt this has been a very rushed operation and it is wonderful they have given us this stay of execution to come together as a community and put forward our own plans and proposals for how the libraries will be run.”

Over recent months thousands of residents have protested and petitioned against the proposals to close the rural libraries.

Hundreds of people attended meetings at Scarborough, Scalby and Ayton libraries, where petitions were collected containing more than 1,000 signatures, as well as petitions collected by local school children from Scalby and Ayton.

The Evening News also ran a campaign, attracting more than 200 responses from locals eager to save the services.

In response to the opposition county councillors have taken the decision to establish the one off fund to buy more time for libraries to remain in operation until communities can put forward their proposals for running library services.

They also agreed to look at solutions across the whole library service instead of targeting smaller libraries.

Cllr David Jeffels, who worked with residents to save Ayton Library, said: “I am pleased this resolution has been reached giving some time to libraries to find volunteers.

“The breathing space is very welcome as it is obviously going to take quite a time to create community partnerships with the county council.

“Hopefully this extended time will result in the library eventually being kept open and being run in a sustainable way by a community partnership scheme.”

The county council identified two sources of cash to make up the fund; £300,000 from the library service book fund and £350,000 from the general corporate budget.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Cllr John Weighell said: “We have had no choice but to agree a very tough budget settlement.

“The county has to find £69 million in savings over the next four years, £35 million of which has to be found in the next year due to the Government’s frontloading of cuts set out in its comprehensive spending review.

“We don’t like any cuts to our services, but everything we do has to be scrutinised to see what savings can be made.

“The library service cannot escape that scrutiny and we have established that £2 million has to be found, though we will continue to invest some £5 million a year in the service.

“We have always known that libraries are important to our communities and we have taken note of the very strong messages coming out of the library consultation and we have therefore agreed to provide more time to find the best solution possible for a high quality library service.”