Shropshire libraries in limbo as cuts loom
Cost-cutting plans have left the future of Shropshire libraries uncertain in a move that could see community groups take over services.
Shropshire Council hopes to find "alternative management" for a total of 14 library services in a bid to save £1.3 million.
Bosses have revealed that they hope to see all of its 22 libraries, except those in the main six market towns, taken over by community organisations.
Libraries where Shropshire Council hopes to find alternative management:
- Bayston Hill
- Bishops Castle
- Church Stretton
- Cleobury Mortimer
- Craven Arms
- Library at the Lantern
- Much Wenlock
Libraries in the main market towns that are not being looked at for alternative management:
- Market Drayton
If no solution can be found, services could be reduced or in some cases replaced with a mobile library service.
The changes were announced at a meeting of the Wem and Shawbury Local Joint Committee.
Teresa Eccleston, area manager for north Shropshire libraries said: "We are looking for alternative management to transfer the services to community groups.
"We wouldn't leave them without a library service. If a community group comes forward to run it then we can offer support of course and we are very positive that this could happen for most of the libraries. But if they do not, that is where we are considering replacing it with a mobile service."
Library service bosses announced that it would be looking at each library on a case-by-case basis.
Ms Eccelston said: "We have considered reducing the number of hours at the libraries but it is peanuts."
Michael Lewis, head of the library service added: "I understand people are concerned, but I have a very limited time to make the £1.3million savings."
Library bosses say there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to the plans to transform services.
Ms Eccleston said: "It is about transforming the service and there is 'no one size fits all' when it comes to this.
"That is why we will have community conversations about all of the options."
She said they would be looking at each library on a case-by-case basis and encouraging discussion to find the best option for that area.
And she added that she was "very positive" that a community group could be found to take over management in most of the libraries.
Ms Eccleston said the figures had been falling for a number of years. She said: "In 2009 we saw 16,000 people visit, but in the last full year, which was 2013-14, we saw only 6,284."
It was revealed that Shawbury library, based in the village hall, could possibly be reduced to a mobile library.
Michael Lewis, head of the library service, said he understand concerns, but he had "a very limited time to make the £1.3 million savings".
He said he could give the village until September to find a group to take the library on, but then a six-week consultation into other options would have to begin.
But councillors expressed concerns about technicalities in staffing. They warned this would cost any voluntary organisation too much money, although they heard that without taking on library staff visitors would not have access to the full range of services.
Committee chairman Simon Jones, Shropshire Councillor for Shawbury said: "There has already been support to save the library but we will need more."
No plans to close libraries in Telford & Wrekin or Mid Wales:
There are no plans to close any libraries in Telford & Wrekin or mid-Wales, council leaders and bosses confirmed today.
It should quell fears among library users that their service could be at risk as it was revealed neighbouring Shropshire Council could replace 16 of its communities libraries with mobile services in a bid to save money.
But both councils admitted their library services had to save money but said they thought shutting libraries would be the "wrong thing to do".
Instead of closing libraries, in bids to save money, hours have been reduced and some will share their buildings with other services.
Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member, Councillor Bill McClements, said: ""We have no plans to close any libraries.
"We have already passed a budget for the next financial year and it is not something that is on our radar screen as something to do.
"In fact we have opened libraries one in Southwater and others.
"Thankfully most of our libraries are in joint buildings which helps and quite a few of our others are in schools or other community buildings.
"The problem they have in some other council areas is their libraries are in single sites and have high cost.
"Unless things get really bad we have no plans to look at library closures. We have in some cases reduced library opening hours but in Southwater we have actually extended opening hours.
"It would not actually save us a lot of money and it would be the wrong thing to do.
"At this point unless things get really bad we would not be looking at it."
John Evans, Powys County Council spokesman, said: "We do not have any plans to close libraries, in fact we have just refurbished and moved one in Llandrindod Wells to another building in a £100,000 project and we are seeking planning permission for a new central hub in Brecon which will include a refurbishment of a museum and the building of a new town library.
"Our library service has had to fund savings in the coming financial year. We have decided we will be reducing opening hours by 20 per cent across all 17 libraries from April, rather than closing any libraries. We went out to public consultation and following that we decided on the 20 per cent reduction and we will implement that
n the times when they are used least.
So no closures but we are reducing opening hours by 20 per cent from April."
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