A decision on the future of the county’s libraries is expected to be taken in February.
This follows a ruling by the High Court which said Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to re-design its services to save £2m was legally flawed. The council wanted to continue running only 15 of its 45 libraries with others run by volunteers. Grantham library faced having its opening hours cut.
Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries, today made a statement at a meeting of the council’s Executive. Coun Worth said: “As you are aware, the council is required to give further consideration to its proposed changes to local library services, as a result of the recent judicial review. That means some additional work will be needed over the coming months, for which detailed plans are currently being drawn up by officers.
“Under our initial proposal, 74 per cent of Lincolnshire households would be able to reach a council-run library within 30 minutes by public transport, and there would be online and targeted services. These would be complemented by a non-statutory network of community hubs and mobile libraries.
“This remains our preferred option, but we accept that there may be other ways to deliver the excellent and sustainable library service we want for local people.
“Importantly, the court ruling showed that our preferred model would meet our legal duties, and any others put forward for consideration would need to meet this critical requirement. They would also need to deliver the required savings.
“Much of the additional work will be aimed at finding out what other options we should consider before making a new decision in the early months of 2015.
“As ever, we will move forward with an open mind. We have been impressed by the willingness of communities and volunteers to work with us to develop a network of community hubs in the county. We believe these to be of great value, both now and in the future, and will continue to work closely with these volunteers over the coming months.
“I’d also like to thank our hard-working staff for their continuing professionalism during this difficult time.
“Broadly speaking, in order to address the issues raised during the judicial review, we will now need to take the following steps:
There will be a further period of consultation, starting in October, giving people the opportunity to suggest alternative models for a comprehensive and efficient library service.
We will have further discussions with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) to understand the potential of their proposals, and expect to receive a revised expression of interest from them in October.
We will consider valid expressions of interest under section 81 of the Localism Act 2011, whether from GLL or elsewhere, in accordance with our formal Community Right to Challenge Scheme.
“The result of receiving a valid expression of interest under the Community Right to Challenge Scheme might be a requirement to put the library service out to competition. In view of this possibility, we will start to make preparations for a possible future procurement process.
“It is expected that the Executive will be asked to take a fresh decision on the future of the library service in February next year.”