Surrey County Council: Volunteer-run libraries won't save cash
CAMPAIGNERS are demanding county council bosses rethink plans to introduce volunteer-run libraries, after a key councillor admitted the plans would not save money.
Ten libraries – including Warlingham, Tattenhams and Lingfield – have been earmarked for the scheme. But the plans suffered a setback last month when a High Court judge ruled the council's plans were unlawful as there had not been sufficient consideration of the impact on residents with special needs.
And now the plans are under further attack after Councillor Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council's cabinet member for community services, said at a cabinet meeting last Tuesday: "There are no expected financial savings in 2012/2013 in the library service as a result of community partnered libraries proposals, and there are no expected annual savings as a result of the community partnered libraries proposals."
Cllr Clack was unavailable for interview and when the Mirror asked the council "are savings expected at any time?" a spokeswoman said: "How long is a piece of string?"
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Mike Alsop, chair of Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) which brought the High Court action for judicial review, said: "Surrey County Council has hoodwinked local residents into believing that their library was under threat, and that the only way to save their library was to volunteer to run it. But it turns out that threat was a lie.
"Residents have put a lot of time and effort into setting up volunteering groups to run their library because they believed the council's cost-saving claims, and believed the council when it said there was no alternative. The council has let those people down badly and they deserve an apology.
"This is now a policy with no justification. The council can afford paid and professional staff in each of the libraries."
Lingfield Library campaigner John Cole, 69, of College Close, Lingfield, said: "Hearing this makes me very upset. I'm flabbergasted they can be so totally and utterly useless."
And Warlingham campaigner Ethel Jones, 81, of Blanchmans Road, Warlingham, said she was astounded.
She added: "What the devil are they playing at?"
The council is due to look again at its volunteer library decision on July 24.