Sat, 21 Mar 2020
A PETITION to save Kingsclere Community Library has been handed in to Hampshire County Council.
The petition – signed by more than 1,800 people – aims to prevent the council from cutting its financial support to the venue.
However, the authority admitted it is unlikely to save the library.
The move would make four so-called ‘tier 4’ community-run libraries in the county independent – meaning they would lose their frequent supply of books, as well as their Wi-Fi connection, public computer and book-borrowing machines.
Despite the petition, Hampshire County Council executive member for recreation and heritage Sean Woodward admitted that it was unlikely that the library would be able to remain open in its current form, with tough financial decisions needing to be made to fund the rise in demand for adult social care.
He said: “It certainly won’t retain the support in its current form.
“What you need to remember is that five years ago the community libraries were all to be closed, it just so happened that community groups came forward to run them.
“We have vast sums of money to save – but it’s not just savings, it’s really all going into adult social care.
“We spend over £1m every day looking after our old folk in Hampshire and that is growing and growing.
“The decisions are really quite hard – do you close the library or not look after somebody’s grandmother, not dress them, clothe them or feed them.
“What would you do?
“Decisions have to be made.”
Library committee member Sarah Davis argued, however, that facilities like Kingsclere provide a tangible benefit for the elderly and said the council should pay more attention to what libraries bring to the community.
She said: “Our library helps the elderly a huge amount.
“They certainly rely on it for reading matter.
“They have more time to read and living on their own, it passes the time.
“It’s also a social thing for them as they don’t typically have much social contact.
“The council are ignoring those benefits.”
A consultation on the future of all Hampshire libraries closed yesterday (Wednesday) with more than 20,000 responses – the most the county council has ever received.
Although continued support of Kingsclere Community Library looked unlikely, Mr Woodward suggested that local parish councils could step in to cover the costs of running the facility.
He continued: “There are options for parish councils to take up the slack.
“They can put their council tax up as much as they like.
“I know there are some ideas floating around some parishes to take over paying for their community libraries staying open.
“In many parishes, if you earn a pound through the parish council tax each year they could potentially raise enough money to keep the library open.
“The question would be whether people are prepared to pay a pound a year to run the library.”
The council’s conclusion on its libraries will be revealed to the public in a meeting on June 4, although the final decision is likely to be disclosed in the agenda issued the week before.