Volunteers to run 10 Surrey libraries
VOLUNTEERS are being trained to run libraries in Surrey leading to the loss of paid jobs for full-time librarians.
Councillors at Surrey County Council (SCC) decided yesterday (July 24) to press ahead with its controversial programme - called Community Partnered Libraries, which will be rolled out at 10 libraries.
Protesters, including Hazel Watson SCC leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, demonstrated outside County Hall ahead of the meeting where cabinet members agreed to the cost-cutting measure.
The 10 libraries are Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water and Warlingham.
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These will now rely on volunteer workers despite the High Court stalling an earlier decision by the council for volunteer-run libraries.
More than 300 volunteers have already undergone training to run their local library with more people set to receive it, SCC said.
Once trained, they'll receive on site advice and support from paid staff who will be at the branches part time.
Removing staff funding for the 10 selected libraries was originally thought to save £200,000. But according to a report by the BBC the council later said there would be no saving in the short term.
Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Services, said the plan would help smaller libraries.
Mrs Clack said: "We had a choice to make which we had a long and carefully considered debate about. We could maintain the status quo and watch lesser used libraries continue to decline in the coming years, or we could let volunteers help them thrive by tailoring their local branch to meet local needs.
"Volunteers can now take a library that is closed three days a week and open its doors daily. They can cater for the commuter rush, hold evening classes, community events or online author talks to help fulfil a library's potential."
Liberal Democrats at SCC have called for more talks about the future of the libraries.They have proposed an alternative approach where one full-time member of staff remained at each library.
Liberal Democrat communities spokesperson Cllr John Orrick said: "These proposals would make the libraries truly community partnered, while maintaining professional staff and important computer links. They are also very likely to save money due to reduced training costs compared to the Conservative administrations proposals, which they have already declared won't save a penny.
"The Conservatives are obstinately pushing forward with their plans, but the residents of Surrey deserve better. I will be calling for a proper scrutiny of the decision that the Conservative Cabinet has made, and the alternatives that have been put forward."