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Town library to be transferred to Friends group

Laughter at 'anti-Hungerford bias' comment

John Garvey

john.garvey@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886628

Town mobilises to fight library closure

IT was a case of ‘bouquets and brickbats’ for Hungerford at a recent executive committee meeting of West Berkshire Council.

District councillors voted unanimously to agree, in principle, to transfer the running of Hungerford Library to the Friends of Hungerford Library (FoHL) group.

There was particular praise for town mayor Keith Knight for his role in helping to broker the deal.

But opposition Liberal Democrat councillors laughed aloud when it was suggested that this disproved claims of an anti-Hungerford bias among members.

At the meeting, West Berkshire Council’s executive member for libraries, Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston), said: “This goes back to our scheme to save £695,000 from the library service overall.

“We were looking to Hungerford to contribute about £5,500, as we asked other parishes to contribute.”

He added: “The FoHL, in conjunction with Hungerford Town Council, made a proposal to us, which involved the transfer of the library building to them.”

The town council offered to establish a community interest company responsible for operating the service, saving a total of just over £31,000.

Mr Boeck said: “As far as their proposal was concerned I was really keen to investigate further as we were likely to gain more of a saving and satisfy the needs of the Hungerford community. It clearly is kind of a win-win situation.

“This paper is asking for agreement in principal to allow Hungerford Town Council to explore in more detail in terms of overall costs before finalising the transfer of Hungerford Library.”

He added: “My view on the overall proposal is that it is an excellent example of a community working closely together with West Berkshire and I am really please to bring it forward for recommendation.”

District councillor Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley), said: “I’m absolutely delighted to see how this particular library transfer has worked.”

She paid tribute to Mr Boeck and his colleagues, then added: “It’s a great credit to the town council and to the FoHL for working together.

“[Mr Knight] was the champion and standard-bearer in Hungerford for this project.

“I think we should say a special thanks to him personally for working closely with councillor Boeck and officers to achieve this outstanding community result.”

She added: “I think it’s really, really good news for us all.

“It seemed very doomy and gloomy initially, but it’s been a real result in that the community has come together to work with West Berkshire Council to actually achieve a result that is important to their particular community.”

It was then that Mr Boeck made his comments, in an apparent reference to complaints from some town councillors, of an “anti-Hungerford bias” at district council level.

He said: “It reflects the really friendly relationship between West Berkshire Council and Hungerford Town Council.

“That is worth stating in light of the, perhaps slightly ill-judged, comments we’ve been reading in the media recently.”

His remarks were greeted with laughter from opposition members.

Nevertheless the meeting voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.

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Article comments

  • Janet

    31/10/2017 - 11:11

    I don't think the perceived anti Hungerford bias is necessarily personal - West Berks have been badly hit by Conservative central government cuts and seem to be looking at selling off assets as well as making savings on services. The library building might well have been considered for disposal/commercial development once the library had been closed in the same way as the fenced off JoG playing fields (as previously reported in the NWN) and the Triangle Field before it was acquired by HTC. Rather cynically I can't help wondering whether sale of the Chestnut Walk care home was also influenced by the commercial value of the building/plot if converted to residential.

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    • Janet

      31/10/2017 - 13:01

      Correction - I meant closure of the care home - I don't know whether it has been sold yet

      Reply