Consultation on libraries ends

Labour candidate Malcolm Birks, fourth left, collecting signatures against Government cuts by Ripon Library.
Labour candidate Malcolm Birks, fourth left, collecting signatures against Government cuts by Ripon Library.
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The county council’s consultation on proposed changes to library services has ended with thousands responding to the exercise.

More than 7,500 have taken part, with 5,892 online responses and 1,739 hard copy replies collected since November with more yet to be submitted from the libraries.

County Coun Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for library services, said: “We have had a tremendous response to our library consultation. Communities have shown that they place great value on their library service by becoming involved and sharing ideas .”

Under the proposals to save a further £1.6m from the libraries budget, there would be three tiers of libraries:

– “core” libraries in each of North Yorkshire’s seven districts, with Harrogate town’s library serving as our borough’s core centre;

– “hybrid” libraries would have a proposed mixture of employed staff and volunteers, as is planned for Ripon which would be left with one member of employed staff.

– “community managed” libraries, like Boroughbridge, which would receive arm’s length professional support from the core libraries but would be run solely by volunteers.

The plans for Ripon Library – which has the third highest number of active users and borrowers in the county – have drawn criticism from the city’s MP Julian Smith (Con), who has branded them “wholly disproportionate and unacceptable”.

“It would appear that the three-tier model being proposed, with Ripon being suggested as a ‘hybrid’ library, takes no account of the varying levels of usage or significance of libraries,” he said.

But his rival candidate for the parliamentary seat in May’s General Election, Malcolm Binks (Lab), sympathises with the council’s position.

Holding a protest against Government cuts outside Ripon Library on Thursday last week, he said: “It is the choices of the national Government which are forcing this. Tory and Lib Dem MPs need to take responsibility for this and not say ‘it’s nothing to do with us, speak to North Yorkshire County Council’.”