February deadline set for Church Stretton Library decision
A deal must be struck to save Church Stretton Library by February, it has been revealed.
After being in limbo due to a legal wrangle, Shropshire Council has released a "timeline" for fresh decisions over the future of the the library – and expects to be discussing applicants at a cabinet meeting on February 8.
The "proposed next steps" for seeking a new group to take the library were discussed by Church Stretton Town Council last night.
Some concerns have been raised that it may be year before the service is up and running under new management, with no guarantee yet that a group to run it will come forward.
It follows the halting of controversial plans to move the library out of the town centre to Church Stretton School, after two years of campaigning and a legal challenge by supporters.
Marian Giles, Church Stretton town clerk, said the new process was "going to take some time" and Church Stretton Library was already being treated as a special case separately to decisions being made over other libraries in the county.
She said: "Basically the next step for Shropshire Council is to choose a 'preferred provider' for the library.
"We have just had a survey on what people are willing to spend their council tax precept on, and we will be setting our precept in January, way ahead of knowing who will be the preferred provider. It's not ideal at all.
"It is also more uncertainty and I just feel for the staff there because they've had quite a lengthy period of uncertainty already."
Campaign group Church Stretton Library Support Group lobbied for a judicial review of the move to the school, saying the community had not been given the chance to express interest in taking over the running at its current home on Church Street.
Shropshire Council withdrew its case just before the High Court hearing in April and is now preparing to call for such expressions.
The timeline submitted to the town council says: "This process will be transparent and open to any person who would like to help shape a future service specification for the library and any group or organisation that would like to submit an expression of interest to deliver the Church Stretton library service."
It suggests allowing 12 weeks to allow expressions to be submitted, two weeks to consider and feedback on them, and four weeks for a final decision to be made. After that a 10-week "procurement period" will start with the library building possibly transferred as a community asset, then it would be another 12 weeks to appoint the new provider and run a consultation, before entering a six month period to "work through arrangements"for new service".
Felicity Thomas of Church Stretton Library Support Group said she could not comment on the group's involvement at present.