North Yorkshire libraries at risk of closure in new wave of council cuts

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.

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Libraries across North Yorkshire could face closure due to extensive funding cuts at North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).

Fears have been raised that libraries in Ripon, Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge, Boroughbridge, Sherburn, and Tadcaster could close under budget slashing proposals revealed by the council.

Launching a three-month consultation on cutting £3.6m from its libraries budget by 2020, the local authority this week said it was proposing to restructure libraries across the county.

Plans to cut the libraries budget by £3.6m are part of North Yorkshire County Council’s overall scheme to save £167m.

It has already saved £2m from the libraries budget, with nine libraries across the county already community-managed, but now the council needs to save an additional £1.6m.

The latest raft of proposals affect 32 of the county’s libraries with the local authority proposing to retain a “core” library in each of North Yorkshire’s seven districts, with the library in Harrogate town earmarked for the district’s core centre.

Ripon Library, because it would have a mixture of paid and volunteer staff, would be classed as a ‘hybrid’ library along with Filey, Knaresborough, Pickering and Whitby, which would also each have one paid employee as part of the scheme.

Under the proposals, libraries at Boroughbridge, Pateley Bridge, Sherburn, and Tadcaster would be classed as ‘community managed’, receiving arm’s length professional support from the ‘core’ libraries but run solely by volunteers.

Coun Chris Metcalfe, NYCC executive member for library and information services, said: “The cuts that have come over the last few years have become quite substantial and NYCC cannot continue to run the whole range of services it once did, therefore what we are looking to do is redesign the way we are running those services in partnership with communities.

“Ripon and Knaresborough have very busy libraries and it would be unfair to expect communities to pick up and run a library of that volume, so we have a basic element of NYCC staff and support in there and recruit a large number of volunteers to work around that.

“We are talking to individual county councillors affected by this where there is no established volunteer group, and asking how can we generate that?

“We would have to look at the situation before we decide they will close. But this is not a given. Financially we are in a difficult place, but that does not mean we won’t listen.”

RIPON AND BOROUGHBRIDGE

NYCC said it was proposing to reduce staffing in Ripon from seven posts to just one employee while relying on an unspecified number of volunteers to help operate the service.

But questions over whether enough volunteers will come forward to help run the library have left Ripon politicians worried over its survival. Coun Peter Horton (Ind, Ripon South) said: “I am not sure where we are going to get the volunteers from. The other alternative if they can’t get the volunteers is that it will close, so I am a bit concerned about that.

“It is all part of the council’s efforts to save money – that is the main reason they are doing it, but I would like to see the library service retained as much as possible.”

Coun Bernard Bateman (Con, Ripon North) has also raised concerns about whether a team of volunteers and just one employee would be able to keep the library operating.

“Ripon is a large library and it needs running by paid and experienced staff,” said Coun Bateman.

“It is not logical to expect it to be run by one member of staff, you couldn’t do it. It would be a free-for-all because volunteers are not responsible in that way.”

But with the consultation at an early stage, Coun Bateman still hopes Ripon Library can be saved.

“I don’t think there is going to be anything that is going to affect Ripon library and certainly I will fight to make sure nothing does,” he said.

“It is definitely not fixed in stone because we have not been consulted on it yet.”

Under the plan outlined by NYCC, the local authority would still pay for the management of the building on The Arcade.

KNARESBOROUGH

The number of paid staff at Knaresborough library could also be slashed from seven to one under proposed cuts to services, meaning the facility would have to rely heavily on volunteers to continue running.

Knaresborough library would receive less support than Harrogate and is proposed as one of five libraries, including Ripon, facing large-scale restructuring.

Knaresborough division Coun Bill Hoult (Lib Dem) said: “The only concern I have is that, for a very busy library, we are talking about numbers of volunteers, maybe 50 or 60 spread out, and maintaining that number is going to be a tough act. That is my great worry and I realise it is not going to be easy. It will need a tremendous amount of work, but that is something the consultation will hopefully show where we are with that. But I am pleased that Knaresborough will continue with its library and that it will be professionally-led by a permanent officer and that they will remain in the very good premises in the centre of the town.

“Also NYCC is going to take a long time on the consultation, so it is going to be very thorough.”

PATELEY BRIDGE

Pateley Bridge library could be at risk of closure under plans for extensive cuts to services unless volunteers come forward to run it.

As part of the plans up for consultation, Pateley’s library is one of 20 proposed to become completely community managed.

This would mean that, if no volunteers came forward to run it independently of NYCC, it might be forced to close.

Pateley Bridge library would receive less support than Harrogate, which would remain as a ‘core library’ where most professionals would be based, and Ripon, which is one of five libraries that could be cut down to one member of staff.

Though guidance on the plans says that community-managed libraries like Pateley Bridge would receive ‘regular and ongoing professional support’ from core libraries, they would ‘depend on communities and potential partners coming forward’.

Pateley Bridge division Coun John Fort (Con) said: “I have no concern that the library will close.

“It isn’t as draconian as it appears. The library needed looking at and I am quite confident we can resolve these matters.

“We are putting arrangements in place along with Nidderdale Plus. Obviously it is in its infancy at the moment, but in real terms it will be more beneficial for Pateley Bridge because we will have tourist information there as well.

“By doing this, the outcome will be that we have tourist information in a one-stop shop with a library all year round.”

TADCASTER AND SHERBURN

Libraries in Tadcaster and Sherburn are also at risk of closure.

As part of the plans up for consultation, Tadcaster and Sherburn libraries are among 20 proposed to become completely community-managed, like Pateley Bridge.

Tadcaster and Sherburn would receive less support than Selby library, which would retain paid staff and act as a ‘core library’.

Sherburn in Elmet division Coun Robert Packham (Lab) said: “I think it will mean the library will close if no-one comes forward, but the parish council has been working with the county council for the last seven or eight months to try and get it into a position to stay open for that and other uses.

“It is a very well-used library and a very useful asset for the village, and it is fair to say that the parish council and myself will do as much as we can to make sure we keep a library in Sherburn.

“The council cuts are a serious problem. From my point of view I wish we didn’t have to cut local authority services because I think we provides good services, and I could take my bat home and shout about it, but I know that if I do that I am wasting time when I could be doing something positive.”

The consultation runs until February 2015 and a report will be given to council members in June 2015.

The public can complete an online survey at www.northyorks.gov.uk/libraryconsultation

What do you think about the county council’s proposals for the future of our library services?

Email your views to james.metcalf@jpress.co.uk or call 01423 707526