New plan unveiled for future of Shropshire libraries
No libraries will have to close in the county, Shropshire Council bosses have revealed as they have unveiled a new plan for the service.
But eight of the county's smaller libraries will have to find a way to survive without money from the council, a newly released draft strategy suggests, while seven more now have five years to do the same.
The updated strategy has been released by Shropshire Council, outlining which town libraries will continue to receive funding and which will have to find ways to become "cost neutral" – or in other words not require any cash input from the county authority.
The strategy outlines three "tiers" of library.
In tier one are the main libraries in the county's larger market towns, that will continue to receive full funding, including Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch.
In tier two are libraries in smaller towns and communities that will have five years to find a way to run without council money – as funding will taper off over that period until stopping altogether in April 2023.
Those in tier two include Church Stretton, Pontesbury, and Shrewsbury's Library at the Lantern, as well as libraries that are already run by community groups – with support from Shropshire Council – such as Albrighton, Bishop's Castle, Cleobury Mortimer and Ellesmere.
Requiring more urgent action will be those in tier three, again in smaller towns and communities, that will only have one year until losing funding altogether.
Tier three libraries include Bayston Hill, Broseley, Craven Arms, Gobowen, Highley, Much Wenlock, Shifnal and Wem, some of which already have community organisations running them, though some of which are still in the process of finding a way to be run in partnership.
However, George Candler, director of place and enterprise for Shropshire Council, said it was important to stress that the strategy was draft one that the council wanted feedback on – both from the general public, and from town and parish councils, businesses and organisations that might be involved in the running of the services.
He said: "What we want to do as part of our consultation is very much go out and seek people's views.
"We're looking to work with those in tier two and tier three to make them more sustainable."
He said the draft plan will be put to Shropshire Council's cabinet on July 12 after which it will go out for a 10-week consultation, with a final report going to full council in the autumn.