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Calls to help Dorset libraries at risk of closure rejected
COUNCILLORS have turned down pleas to provide additional resources to help communities take over lib-raries threatened with closure.
So far supporters of seven out of nine Libraries faced with the loss of core funding from Dorset County Council later this year have submitted business plans to take on the running of the facilities themselves.
Members of the council’s cabinet approved the latest proposals to allow them to move forward with the handover of control but turned down a specific request for additional resources to start up the new community libraries.
But they promised to leave libraries in a ‘reasonable condition’ when they hand them back over to the community.
The council’s head of community services Paul Leivers told the meeting of the cabinet that seven of the communities faced with losing their libraries – those at Chickerell, Puddletown, Wool, Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Colehill and Stalbridge – had submitted business plans to take on the running of the facilities.
Corfe Castle and Portland Underhill do not currently have offers from the community and face a very real prospect of closure, although the community in Corfe Castle was hoping to hold a meeting in the near future in a final attempt to attract public support.
Chairman of the library campaign group Ad Lib (the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries) Graham Lee said he still had some concerns about the finer details of the proposal for communities to take on the running of the libraries and requested a meeting to iron out any issues.
He said: “I suggest a meeting with all the proposed community libraries, representatives from Ad Lib and officers from the library service to take place at the earliest opportunity.
The cabinet also refused to grant a request from the library communities for various amounts of additional funding totalling £24,200 in start up and maintenance costs.
However, cabinet member for community services Hilary Cox said some funds would be found in existing capital budgets to ensure that the libraries were handed over to the communities in a suitable condition.
She said: “It may not exactly meet the wish list but there is funding available.”
Councillor Cox added: “We must ensure the buildings we hand over are in reasonable condition.”
SALVATION ARMY PLAYS DOWN LIBRARY LIFELINE
THE SALVATION Army has played down suggestions at the meeting that it could offer an unlikely lifeline to Portland Underhill libary.
Paul Leivers told the meeting that he had been contacted by someone from the Salvation Army shortly before the meeting, who had expressed an interest in taking on the running of the library for the community.
Mr Leivers stressed there had been no firm offer as yet and, as things stood, the library was still looking at closure but said the council would be open to an offer from the Salvation Army if a concrete proposal came forward.
He said: “There are no immediate plans or thoughts the organisation has in place.
“One of the things we have put in as part of our approach to community run libraries is a willingness to work with a range of partners and this would fit with that.”
However, after the meeting Major Granville Myers from the Salvation Army in Weymouth said that there had merely been an ‘enquiry’ from his organisation and it was not likely to be pursued.
He said: “It was basically an enquiry really, obviously we were aware of their plans to close the library we thought there might be a way the Salvation Army could serve that community and help keep it open.
“But it doesn’t look like there is and it looks like the library is going to be closing.”
Major Myers added: “It looks like this one is a closed door but we just had to enquire really.”