A new community library is opening in Sheffield later today. The Tinsley Library will be one of the 16 branches in the city to be run by volunteers. It will initially be open three days a week, with plans to expand the service in the future.
An appeal to the High Court for a judicial review into Lincolnshire County Council’s plan to cut the number of libraries from 45 to 15 has failed.
After a week long hearing, a High Court judge dismissed the legal challenge on all grounds.
Under the plans, the council will continue to provide 15 major libraries, along with online services and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of, for instance, disability, age or ill health.
These will be complemented by around 30 community hubs, including library services, developed in partnership with local community groups who will also be given over £5,000 per year towards their running costs and access to a one-off grant of up to £15,000 for changes to buildings or equipment.
In addition, the authority is undertaking a competitive procurement to seek an external organisation to potentially deliver library services on its behalf, including the support for the community hubs. This follows an approach by Greenwich Leisure Limited, a not-for-profit organisation interested in running local libraries.
Because of the work involved in a competitive procurement, it is likely to take until the end of 2015 before a final decision is reached on who will run the service.
Lincolnshire County Council says it will not make a decision on the closure of library services across the county until a Judicial Review takes place.
The Judicial Review of the County Council decision to close libraries, get rid of over 100 mobile library stops and cut up to 170 jobs will now take place in the High Court in London on July 8 and 9.
The grounds for the Judicial Review include the possibly illegal nature of the consultation process as the decision had already been taken, the failure to deal with the harm caused to people under the Equalities Act.
They also include the decision not to properly consider the proposal from Greenwich Leisure under the Localism Act and the failure of the Council’s plan to provide a comprehensive public library service under the Libraries Act.
Simon Draper, the applicant in the Judicial Review, said “I welcome the decision of the County Council not to implement its plans to get rid of 30 libraries until the court decides.
"However I am very disappointed that it is still pressing ahead next week with its plans to get rid of jobs, to cut away the mobile library service from large numbers of villages in Lincolnshire and to slash the hours of the remaining libraries.
"Thousands of people are going to be losing their library service on the 6th of May. It is not good enough.”
Julie Harrison, spokesperson for Save Lincolnshire Libraries and former head teacher, said:
“We welcome a date being set for the Judicial Review. The sooner the Court decides that the County Council has acted illegally and should be providing a comprehensive Library Service across the whole County the better.
"It is still not too late for the County to change its mind and stop its mindless destruction of the Library Service on May 6th.
Campaigners are heading to Downing Street later to appeal to the Prime Minister to help save Lincolnshire's libraries from closure. The County Council wants to axe dozens of libraries to save two million pounds.
Campaigners in Sheffield will urge the council again today to reconsider plans to close 16 of the city's libraries.
The council are hoping community groups could be formed to take over the running of five of those sixteen, but the rest remain at risk.
Libraries in York could become the first in the UK to be run by an independent group if the City Council signs up to the proposal today.
The Council would fund the group, but it would be able to govern the libraries separately.
The city's 14 libraries will be run by the Explore Libraries and Archive Mutual - known as Explore.
Explore will guarantee the local authority's statutory duty to deliver a library service and the legal requirements that come with managing the UK's most important city archive outside London and whose storage is undergoing a £1.77 million transformation
On the final day of the public consultation, Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, has called on Sheffield City Council to change their plans to close more than half of local libraries.
The proposal to close 16 of 28 local libraries has sparked community campaigns across Sheffield. Liberal Democrats handed in a 16,000 petition and community groups have handed in other petitions with thousands more names.
The council has said it needs to slash £1.6m from its library services budget by 2016.
Nick Clegg MP, said:
"There is £31m in owed council tax outstanding. If they got on top of this libraries could stay open without the need for cuts elsewhere. It’s about time they got their act together for the sake of our local libraries."
Sheffield City Council have assured library campaigners that they would keep as many libraries open as possible but said that they may have to be "run differently".
Up to 14 of the city's 27 libraries are under threat due to budget cuts but the Council say that no decision has been made.
The Labour-run-council have conceded that they may have to find other organisations to take over the running of some services for them to stay open.
Campaigners gathered outside Sheffield Central Library today to protest against the possible closure of 14 libraries across the city.
The council say if other organisations can't be found to run branches, they may have to close due to budget cuts.
Gemma Short, from Sheffield, campaigning to save Walkley library, where 180 people attended an event today to show their support for their local service, told Calendar it's an important part of their community.
Campaigners took to the streets in Sheffield today to show their support for the region's libraries.
The hour-long protest, outside the Central Library, was dubbed the "big Shhhhhhhush" as it culminated at 1pm with the age-old library refrain.
Labour-run Sheffield Council says it may have to close up to 14 of 27 community libraries unless it can get other organisations to take over branches, due to budget cuts.