Public outcry could save libraries from axe

PUBLIC outcry looks set to overturn controversial plans to withdraw funding from rural libraries.

North Yorkshire County Council is to take a further look at its proposal to withdraw financial support from more than half of its 42 libraries after a backlash from users.

The rethink could mean libraries which were previously set to be safe from the cuts having their funding reduced as senior councillors say they are examining ways of making the process “fairer”.

Plans to close both Norton and Malton libraries and create one facility still look likely to go ahead.

A consultation was launched earlier this year following the announcement that the library service was being asked to make savings of £2.3 million by reducing the number of libraries from 42 to 18.

Those earmarked for closure included Kirkbymoorside, Helmsley and Norton.

It was also proposed that the majority of the council’s mobile libraries should be taken off the road.

An outcry followed with hundreds of people attending meetings and signing petitions to fight the cuts.

The report on the consultation is now being finalised before a meeting of senior councillors on June 14 and council leader John Weighell says the report has changed considerably.

He said: “Since February we have recognised that what was the original view was not going to be possible and there has been a general softening of attitude.

“Although cuts will have to be made it is felt the pain of those cuts should be more evenly shared out.”

Coun Weighell said that one of the considerations was bringing volunteers into the larger libraries allowing paid staff to remain at the smaller libraries.

However he added that the aim of the county council was still to provide one library for Malton and Norton.

Coun Weighell said he had been pleasantly surprised at how highly the library service was regarded.

“The number of people coming to meetings and responding to the consultation has been more than we expected,” he said.

“This is the best consultation I have been involved in – it has been an excellent consultation in terms of the number of people involved.”

However the rethink has received a mixed reaction from campaigners.

Mayor of Norton Coun Paul Farndale said the town council would continue the fight to retain its own library.

He said: “It will die a death if we lose our library and merge with Malton. If they move to the proposed site near the railway station it will be mainly younger and older people who will suffer as that road is horrendous and there is nowhere to park.”

Liberal County Coun John Clark said he would continue the fight to keep all libraries, including the mobiles, open.

He added that they would be putting forward a motion today (Wednesday) calling for all libraries to remain open but with reduced hours.

Coun Clark said: “Our aim is to keep all libraries, including the mobile ones, open but I have not heard even a rumour about saving the mobiles. In the meantime we will continue to monitor and push and keep the pressure on.”

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