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Library campaigners warn: 'Don't be fooled' by consultation

Group fears Hungerford will be left to fend for itself

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Hungerford Library have urged residents not to fall into what they perceive as a district council trap.

The public has been given three options to tick in the latest consultation and campaign leaders fear that being tempted to tick the least bad of these would count as a de facto vote in favour of a purely volunteer-led service.

West Berkshire Council recently opened the second public consultation following the completion of a needs assessment by consultant Red Quadrant.

Option A states that, while Newbury Library would remain, the other seven branch libraries would be run by staff working alongside community volunteers.

A campaign spokeswoman, Helen Simpson, said: “Option B would leave two branch libraries with a single member of employed staff supported by volunteers, the rest solely run by volunteers.

“Option C would leave seven branch libraries run solely by volunteers.

“Alongside this, town and parish councils are being asked to provide £150,000, and agree to manage a branch library – with support – on a day-to-day basis with a legal service level agreement to ensure the opening of the libraries within the tenure of the agreement.”

She added: “We feel West Berkshire Council has listed options B and C in order to lead the general public to tick option A on the consultation form – this being the only marginally legal option.

“The Friends of Hungerford Library urge you not to fall into the trap of ticking option A on the second consultation form. People may automatically choose that option because it’s the best of the three.

“We are saying tick none of the boxes on offer because the council will be expecting you to choose option A.”

Instead the campaign group will suggest its own option D.

A statement released by the Friends said: “West Berkshire Council would be shirking its own responsibility, passing it on to town/parish/public.

“The public already pays for the library service through their council tax.

“A volunteer-led library service is not a reliable, sustainable way of running a business, leaving us with a real threat of library closures in the future.

“The on-going costs of training volunteers or insuring and maintaining empty buildings could be more costly than continuing with the current service.”

The Friends group will be in Hungerford Library on Wednesdays between 11am and 1pm and between 10am and noon on Fridays to help anyone still unsure of how best to fill in the form.

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