The Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 28th September is scheduled to cover the results of the consultation exercise and revised Library Review proposals. The library service has been talking to community groups and we expect to hear how these discussions have been progressing.
The Cabinet may decide to remove funding from libraries where they think the community has a chance of keeping the library open – we would strongly urge the council not to do this, because volunteer libraries are unsustainable and nowhere near enough planning has been done to ascertain if the libraries would even last a few months outside of council control. If they fail before March 2012, any efforts to find money to save them in the next financial year would be pointless.
Many Labour Councillors who were elected in May this year stood on a platform of opposing library closures. They do not believe that volunteer libraries are a viable solution, and the Labour Group now has a sufficient majority in the Council to vote through sufficient resources to keep the libraries open.
The libraries are currently facing a £1,346,490 budget cut. The Labour Group, along with other councillors, could find enough money to through alternative budget savings and/or an increase in council tax rates (which are currently among the lowest in England) to avoid cutting the library budget. The Mayor has said on many occasions that he does not want to close the libraries – this is his opportunity to save them. It is now vital for all local councillors to work together to keep all the libraries open and council run, which is a real possibility.
However, if the Mayor takes the decision to remove funding from the 14 threatened branches on the 28th and goes back on his word to allow them to stay open until March 2012, it will be almost impossible to reopen the branches and reinstate the staff who will be made redundant, let alone salvage or replace the stock that will be destroyed or sold.