Majority of North Yorks libraries could go to volunteers

Majority of North Yorks libraries could go to volunteers

North Yorkshire County Council is considering passing 23 of its 35 libraries to volunteers, warning that they may close if not taken on by community groups.

The council currently runs 35 libraries in towns including Harrogate, Ripon and Tadcaster, with a further seven libraries in the area already run by volunteers.

Now, as part of proposals to try and find savings go £168m in the next five years, against a starting budget of £500m, the council is considering recruiting volunteers for 23 of its libraries, with the remaining libraries used as hubs for a range of community services.

Council chief executive Richard Flinton said: "We can’t carry on with piecemeal, small-scale cuts. This is the biggest challenge in the authority’s 40-year history. We have got to have fundamental change. If the council funding is getting 34 per cent smaller, there is no way we can carry on with the services that we have done."

He added: "If we want to protect services as much as we can we have to ask the community to step forward. We can’t just wish for more funds."

When the council approved its budget for the next 12 months in February this year, it announced a review of library provision: "with the aim of encouraging more community involvement and ownership; some libraries which are not taken over by their local communities are likely to be closed."

Full consultations on the council's plans are expected to be held later in the year and into 2015.

In 2011, the council proposed plans to hand 24 libraries to volunteers. The proposals were ultimately scrapped.