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Hope for Wash Common library

Service may be able to stay open despite councillors voting to shut it down

Chris Ord

Reporter:

Chris Ord

Contact:

01635 886639

Hope for Wash Common library

THERE may be hope for the future of Wash Common Library, despite West Berkshire Council deciding to close the service down.

District and town councillors for the Falkland ward hope they will be able keep the library, in Glendale Avenue, open with the help of volunteers from the community.

At a meeting earlier this month, West Berkshire councillors voted in favour of closing the library as of March 31, while cutting staff at other branches by almost half as the local authority attempts to find massive savings to balance its budget.

The district’s mobile library service will also be reduced from two vehicles to one.

However, just two weeks after the meeting, there is a glimmer of hope for the branch library, with talks ongoing with a community group to save the service.

One of the councillors spearheading the community response, Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland), said an agreement was in place in principle to allow the community to take over the running of the building, with more than 60 volunteers willing to help, including former librarians.

He said funding was still being sought through community grants, adding: “If we’re not in a position to take it over by April, the building will be mothballed until we’re ready.

“It looks positive. We would need something in the kitty and I’d be happy to put something in there myself as a stop-gap, but we want to appoint a fundraising secretary in the long-term.”

Mr Edwards, along with fellow Conservative councillors had, however, voted in favour of the proposal to close the library.

Explaining his decision, he said: “Wash Common was a done deal.

“I had been through the whole process and there was no way the council were changing their minds about it, particularly when they had these independent assessors who had said it was not viable.

He added: “If we can keep it going, and the more we encourage people to use it  – I think that’s the main thing – I think it stands a good chance that it can become a permanent set-up.”

West Berkshire Council will be relying on volunteers to step up to fill the void once 40 per cent of the district’s library staff have been made redundant under the current plans.

The move is expected to save the council £580,000 – more than £100,000 short of the savings target which the council hopes will be made up by contributions from parish and town councils.

Portfolio holder for culture and environment, Dominic Boeck, said he was delighted to see volunteers coming forward to help at Wash Common, but a decision on whether the community scheme could go ahead would only be made after the council had seen the group’s business case.

Speaking about the district as a whole, he said: “We’ve been really pleased with the level of response.

“A lot of people are really quite keen to come forward to help.”

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