‘We’ll fight to save library”

LOCAL county councillor John Blackburn has vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to keep Hunmanby Library open in the face of planned cuts to the library service.

The small library and information service in Stonegate is one of 24 out of 42 branches across the county threatened with closure or the withdrawal of funding.

Also under threat are the libraries in Eastfield, Ayton and Newby/Scalby.

North Yorkshire County Council is expecting to have to save around £2 million from its library budget over the next four years as a result of major cuts in Government funding.

However, it says it will continue to invest some £5 million a year in the service and will protect 18 libraries in major centres of population, including Filey.

For libraries such as Hunmanby, the only alternative to closure might be allowing it to be run by the local community with the support of the county council. A public consultation is now under way.

Cllr Blackburn said: “A consultation is happening on everything because the county council takes the view that everything has to have its share of the pain.

“Of course there will be an outcry because nobody likes losing anything. We’ll always battle for our own corner, but you also have to be realistic and compromise.

“If push comes to shove, having a library run by volunteers is better than closing it.”

As well as concentrating its services on the remaining branches, the council is proposing to take its 10 mobile libraries off the road and add just a second “super-mobile” to serve isolated communities.

Hunmanby Parish Council chairman John Kniveton said news of the possible closure of Hunmanby Library and the reduction of mobiles seemed like “a bridge too far”.

He said: “It’s more than just a library, it’s also a computer centre and lot more things happen there than just borrowing books.

“I’d be surprised if there’s enough people with sufficient hours to keep it running on a voluntary basis, unless it’s done on a much smaller scale.”

Cllr Kniveton said he was not surprised by the proposals but believed Hunmanby was big enough to deserve a library. “It’s the largest village in Yorkshire and we need better than this.”

He added that if libraries were to close, the county needed a stronger, not a weaker mobile service to compensate.

Hunmanby Library currently opens just one full day and three half-days per week.

Derek Law, corporate director for adult and community services, said: “It’s not just about saving money.

“It’s also about providing the best service we can to the largest number of people, about adapting the libraries to meet changing demands from library users, and about ensuring that all our taxpayers get the best value for their money.

“We are convinced that an essential element of maintaining a high quality service is to provide staffed libraries in those key towns with the best transport links.”

Although mobile libraries are able to take the service to the most remote communities, the cost per user is £77.50 a year compared with £16.50 a year for a branch library.

Members of the public have until the end of February to make their views known on the county council’s proposals.