'No cost saving' in Surrey library plan
Surrey has admitted there is no cost-saving justification for introducing volunteer-run libraries – a plan that saw the local authority taken to the High Court by campaigners.
Cost saving was at the core of Surrey County Council’s (SCC) justification for its plans to convert 10 libraries in the county to volunteer-run sites.
In a statement to a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May 29, Councillor Helyn Clack said: “There are no expected financial savings in 2012-13 in the library service as a result of community partnered libraries proposals and there are no expected annual savings as a result of the community partnered libraries proposals.”
She made clear that there were also no additional costs in implementing the plans.
The costs of the community partnered libraries support team per annum was £106,083 but Coun Clack said those costs were met by “realignment of staff roles”.
Mike Alsop, chairman of Surrey Libraries Action Movement, said: “SCC has hoodwinked local residents into believing that their library was under threat, and that the only way to save their library was to volunteer to run it.
“But it turns out that threat was a lie. No library was ever under threat.
“Local residents have put a lot of time and effort into setting up volunteering groups to run their library because they believed SCC’s cost-saving claims, and believed the council when it said there was no alternative.
“The council has let those people down badly and they deserve an apology. This is now a policy with no justification.”
Coun Clack said organisations had shown energy, passion and ideas for improving their libraries and she believed community-run libraries would bring benefits to communities.
Hersham was among the libraries earmarked to be community-led in the future, after the council had trialled the initial 10.
SCC is due to reconsider its volunteer library decision on July 24.