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Wash Common Library re-opens

Community library back in action today over a year after it was closed

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas

fiona.tomas@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886639

Wash Common Library re-opens

WASH COMMON Library will reopen its doors to the public today thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the local community.

The facility closed in April 2017 after West Berkshire Council said it could no longer afford to run it.

The closure was one of several measures taken by the local authority to save around £580,000 a year within the library service.

Following the closure, a community group called The Friends of Wash Common Library was formed with the aim of restoring the service.

And this Saturday at 10am, 18 months of hard work will be realised when the library – which will be run entirely by volunteers independent of West Berkshire Council – reopens for a special launch event.

The Friends of Wash Common Library applied to take over the running of the facility through West Berkshire Council’s devolution programme.

The proposal was agreed by the district council’s executive on June 14, after a report which set out how the service could be sustained by volunteers was considered.

The report, which included a detailed business plan and fundraising strategies, also received the backing of Newbury Town Council – which has entered into a five-year lease with the local authority for the temporary use of the building as a volunteer-led library service.

The town council will be liable for the peppercorn rent of the library building, while The Friends will be expected to pay all utilities and operational costs for the services they provide from the building.

West Berkshire Council’s executive member for community resilience and partnerships Marcus Franks (Con, Speen) said the restoration of the library service positively reflected the local authority’s determination to continue providing statutory services despite a huge reduction in core funding from local government in recent years. 

Mr Franks said: “This is a perfect example of devolution working. 

“We've developed a devolution programme to help sustain locally-led service delivery and encourage town councils, parish councils and voluntary groups to have an increased role in service delivery.

“We are responding to requests from town and parish councils to run buildings, which saves the council money at a time when funding is low.

“Projects like this demonstrate, the huge benefit of active community partnerships.”

Newbury Town Council leader Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) said: “I am very pleased that the town council is able to facilitate The Friends by leasing the building from the district council.

“The support that The Friends have received shows just how much this service is valued.

“We are all looking forward to the re-opening of the library and on behalf of the community in Wash Common I wish to thank The Friends for all their hard work in making this happen.”

The library will cost approximately £8,000 a year to operate, which The Friends of Wash Common Library have raised through a variety of fundraising events.  

Coffee mornings, quizzes and author talks – along with match-funding from Greenham Trust via The Good Exchange platform – have all been staged in a bid to help secure the library’s future.  

Local residents have also pledged annual donations of £1,500 and the group is hoping to obtain additional regular monetary support as more members of the local community use the library.

In light of the achievement, Julia Calvert, who chairs The Friends of Wash Common Library, praised West Berkshire Library Service, which she said has been “extremely supportive” in terms of providing advice on how to operate the library and in donating the book stock.

Mrs Calvert said: “Now we are looking forward to providing a great library service in our local community.

“All of the money raised at our various fundraising events have been match-funded by Greenham Trust.

“Our fundraising total on The Good Exchange platform was more than £12,134 at the beginning of November, which is a fantastic result.”

Everyone is free to attend the library’s opening launch on Saturday and if you are interested in helping as either a volunteer or with fundraising, email friendsofwashcommonlibrary@gmail.com 

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