Libraries are under threat in the most recently announced wave of cuts, as North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) tries to save another £74m.
Around £94m has either been saved or identified since 2011 in the council’s bid to cut spending by £167m by 2020.
However, with an additional £74m still required to meet a funding reduction of 34 per cent, library services are the latest proposed to be slashed, saving the council £1.6m.
It is not yet known which other services will face a similarly uncertain future, but NYCC leader Coun John Weighell (Con) told the Harrogate Advertiser that libraries are the first service to go to consultation, before the budget is discussed at executive level in February 2015.
“There are services we have that can’t stand cuts,” he said.
“Care of the elderly and care and education of children are the areas where we have tended to say we must only do little things there as a last resort, but that lies more heavily on these other services that aren’t exactly discretionary but are very nice to have but are not life-threatening.
“That is why we have gone for those types of services, as pretty much every council in the country has.
“Elderly care is well over half of our budget excluding education and this is about protecting those services, not why are these the places where cuts can be made.”
The library services budget was reduced by £2m in 2011 and nine libraries are already community-managed. Now, a public consultation is underway and 32 libraries could be drastically restructured to save a further £1.6m.
A total of 20 libraries, including Starbeck and Pateley Bridge, could be forced to close if volunteers do not come forward, and libraries in Knaresborough and Ripon would retain only one paid member of staff each - a reduction from seven - but would still be maintained by NYCC. Harrogate would be a ‘core library’, supporting others in the district.
Harrogate Starbeck division Coun Margaret-Ann de Courcey-Bayley (Lib Dem) said: “There is a responsibility to run a library so we were gobsmacked when they came up with trimming the library service, but they can minimise as long as there are well-funded, well-managed libraries like Harrogate.
“I am hopeful that Starbeck will not be closed, but we will have to increase community use to guarantee our future.”
Austerity measures in the county, known as 2020 North Yorkshire, will also involve children’s centres, recycling centres, winter maintenance, and council job losses, though how much is not yet known.
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