Lincolnshire County Council is to put forward plans to provide 15 major libraries plus 40 community-run hubs – the same proposals that were previously quashed by the High Court.
In July campaigners for library services in the county secured a victory through a judicial review contesting the council’s plans to cure the library service budget by £2m.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Collins found that the council’s process leading up to the decision to cut library services was “flawed”, because the authority failed to consult properly and to consider an application by a charitable organisation that put forward plans to run some libraries.
Mr Justice Collins’ decision meant that Lincolnshire had to go back to the drawing board.
The council’s officers, after “additional work over the autumn”, have now recommended that councillors again endorse the previous plans.
Under the proposals, the council would continue to provide 15 major libraries, along with online services, mobile libraries and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of, for instance, disability, age or ill health.
These would be “complemented by up to 40 community hubs, including library services, developed in partnership with local community groups”.
The community groups will receive “ongoing professional support”, said a statement from the council, £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.
Officers are also recommending “the council undertakes a competitive procurement to seek an external organisation to potentially deliver these services on its behalf, including the support for the community hubs”.
This follows an approach from Greenwich Leisure Limited, the charity which was mentioned in the judicial review and whose application Mr Justice Collins said the council failed to deal with properly.
Cllr Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “Officers have put in a lot of work to address the issues raised during the court case. Having done so, they still believe the model previously agreed by the executive is the right way forward. Volunteers would be at the heart of that new-look service, and we have been keeping in close contact with those that have come forward as things developed.
“Because of the challenge from GLL, the executive will also be asked to look at potentially outsourcing our side of things. In light of the work that involves, it’s likely to take until the end of 2015 before a final decision is reached on who will run the service. I look forward to the views of the scrutiny committee and the debate at the executive meeting. However, I’m confident that the ultimate outcome will be a comprehensive and efficient service that meets the needs of residents.”
The council will discuss the recommendations at a committee meeting on 27th January, with a decision being taken at a meeting of the council’s executive on 3rd February.