Libraries saved as vans face axe

Ripon library

Ripon library

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Isolated villages are to lose their lifeline mobile library vans in a council deal to make drastic cuts.

All 10 of North Yorkshire’s mobile libraries are to be axed with only the “supermobile” staying in service.

The vans, one of which is based in Ripon, visit 800 villages throughout the county and many in the Ripon area including Burton Leonard, Bishop Monkton, Sharow and West Tanfield.

The supermobile, which provides internet access, will continue to visit the most rural areas of the county, but will not be able to visit as many villages as the current fleet.

The decision to axe the fleet was taken on Tuesday, June 14 by the council executive as North Yorkshire struggles to cut £1.7m from the libraries’ original £7.5m budget.

However, councillors stressed they are committed to retaining a branch library service.

Executive Member for Library and Information Services County Coun Chris Metcalfe said:

“Our library service, one of the most outstanding in the country, is at a crossroads. The necessity of making savings has made us step back to come up with innovative solutions to maintain a vibrant service in the future.

“We cannot do this alone. The support of our communities is essential.”

It was originally feared as many as 24 of the county’s 43 libraries would have to close in a bid to make savings of £2.3m but this was reduced to £1.7m as additional funds were found.

Boroughbridge library, along with Bedale and Pateley Bridge, was among 15 saved from closure but will have a reduced level of professional staff.

Even the most widely-used services will have reduced opening hours, including no Sunday opening.

Ripon library, along with Knaresborough, Thirsk and Harrogate, has been earmarked a “key centre” and will retain all its services but with fewer staff and significantly restricted opening times.

Meanwhile smaller libraries, including Masham, still face the axe if community groups do not come forward to take on the running of the services.

Talks are ongoing between the council and Masham Community Office to find a way of keeping a library service in the town (see full story page 9).

This week’s announcement comes after public outcry at the council’s original proposals.

Final decisions on libraries looking for community groups to take over will be made at a council executive meeting in October, when councillors will also discuss how to save another £1m by 2014.