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Stafford residents to have their say on the future of libraries

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: July 07, 2014

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STAFFORD residents are to get their say on proposals for volunteers to run community libraries.

Libraries in Gnosall, Penkridge, Rising Brook, Holmcroft and Baswich are among those that could be affected if the plans become reality.

Community organisations would be given the chance to manage their library, including maintaining current services or introducing new ones. They would be supported by the council but it would not be directly involved in management or staffing.

Bigger libraries in Stafford, Stone, Eccleshall and Rugeley would be classed as “library core” centres, where the county council would continue to deliver full library services.

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Members of Staffordshire County Council’s corporate review committee voted on Monday to go out to a 12-week public consultation on the plans announced in June.

Councillor Maureen Compton asked the meeting of what would happen if volunteers couldn’t be found to run them.

“If we have not got enough volunteers in more socio economically deprived areas what’s going to happen to those libraries. Are they eventually going to close as has happened in some areas of the country already,” she said.

Councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for children, communities and localism, said: “This review will not close your library. If we can’t get volunteers we will have to look at that particular library. This is a review that will take three years. We have got three years to develop the confidence in that community to manage that library.

“We can’t just carry on spending the same amount of money on every service that we have to provide across the county. We have got to find new and innovative ways of delivering services or just stop doing it. I could easily be sitting here today saying we are closing x number of libraries but I’m not. I too want to protect those library services. This is one way of doing that.”

Conservative Councillor Frank Chapman, member for Eccleshall, said: “To do nothing would be foolhardy . We are guardians of the public purse and it’s our duty to make sure the money is spent wisely on what it is our duty to provide. “The driving factor seems to be the £1.3million . The only way that saving can be realised is the loss of staff or the loss of facilities as in buildings.”

After the meeting Councillor Trish Rowlands said: “I have one of the libraries under threat if this goes ahead and I’m sounding out the people in my division who access that library – elderly people, young people, a whole host of people in the community use it for a variety of reasons.”

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