Ruling ‘an exercise in the inevitable’

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THE county council’s axe has finally fallen on Winslow Library.

Plans are being drawn up in an attempt to replace it with a community-led facility in a project echoing Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society ideal.

But many library users fear their efforts may be an uphill struggle as the community is already ‘volunteered out.’

The final decision was made in just 10 minutes at a meeting of Bucks County Council cabinet on Monday.

It followed a three month consultation, and effectively rubber-stamped the consultation document launched in November.

Chairman of the Friends of Winslow Library, Guy Hawking, this week called the decision “an exercise in the inevitable”.

Now the ‘county and community’ model for Bucks libraries is set to be rolled out.

Nine of the county’s libraries in areas of higher population will be kept under county council control. But 14 others, including Winslow, will have to run as ‘community partnerships’ if they are to continue to operate at all.

“The consultation was announced by BCC as a proposal to save the libraries, but it seems to have been a foregone conclusion,” said Mr Hawking.

The Friends group was formed out of concerned library users after Winslow Town Council facilitated a public meeting at the town’s Public Hall in January, at which people expressed a desire to try and find a way of keeping the library open.

And that meeting heard various examples of libraries that have successfully been taken over by volunteers, including Steeple Claydon.

The Friends were due to discuss the way forward at a meeting last night (Thursday). And Mr Hawking said the group would next make a formal response to BCC

But he warned: “We need to be confident we can make the funding model for a community library work. it needs to be sustainable.

“We have a £15,000 hole in our funding and we’re not sure we have ways to bridge that.

“Winslow is not a big community so there is only a small pool of volunteers. And a lot of people are trying to fish in the same pool.”

Paula Buck, head of culture and Learning at BCC, said: “We will be starting a 90-day consultation with all staff working at the 14 affected libraries on May 16. Staff and Unison have been informed. The consultation offers employees the chance to say what they want.

“There will be new roles created to support the delivery through the community partnerships and openings within the service, as well as redeployment offered across the county council.”