Groups given more time in battle to save Northamptonshire libraries

Irchester Library is under threat.
Irchester Library is under threat.

Voluntary groups hoping to take over the running of the 21 threatened libraries in Northamptonshire have been given a few more weeks to get their business plans together.

Dedicated volunteers, ‘friends of’ groups and parish councils will now have until midday on June 25 to set out their business cases to take over their local libraries.

Northamptonshire County Council, which has severe financial problems, is planning to stop funding a large number of its libraries which, as well as offering library services, host many local children’s and elderly groups.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council, which decided last Friday (May 18) to extend the deadline from May 31, said: “The deadline for expressions of interest regarding the Independent Library Provision has been extended until June 25 at midday.

“This is because we believe we need additional information to identify those groups that will move forward to the business planning process.

“During the next week or so we will be requesting some further detail from groups regarding their cash flow forecast and their vision and commitment to operating an independent library. We will include information on how we plan to evaluate applications. Any further clarification questions will be responded to up until June 20.”

Former librarian and campaigner Alison Richards, who is supporting the voluntary groups with their bids, said the county council was now asking for more details.

She said: “It is extremely demanding on those who have expressed the wish to keep their libraries and it is taking up endless time. There has been little recognition that the information the county council wishes to receive is being asked of from volunteers. However, these are very determined people who will do everything they can to keep the library open.”

Marion Collyer, a volunteer from under threat Deanshanger library, said the closures were about raising funds.

She said: “This is not about the county council saving money, it is about the library buildings. The council wants to sell them off to make money to balance its books.”

Irchester library is one of the libraries threatened. The Irchester community has lambasted the county council which has offered to sell back to the parish council the victorian building that it acquired from it free of charge in the 1960s. The county council wants the parish to pay £195,00 to buy back the building that the parish built in the early 1900s.

The planned closure of the libraries will only leave 15 libraries in the county. The council’s proposal is the subject of judicial review which will be heard at the High Court at the end of June.