Council approves library consultation amid closure fears

13:08 09 April 2014

Archant

Devon County Council has agreed to consult on plans which could see Exmouth Library upgraded, but could also put Budleigh Salterton Library at risk of closure.

The council announced plans last week to look at turning 22 of its libraries – including Exmouth – into improved ‘Devon Centres’, while its other 28 libraries, including Budleigh, would need community volunteers to take over their running.

The county council said it did not intend for any closures to happen, however it did say that if no-one came forward from the 28 communities, there would be a risk of their services ending.

At a meeting this lunchtime, Devon County Council’s cabinet has agreed to go ahead with its consultation, which is expected to begin next week, and will last for three months.

Councillor Roger Croad, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for the library service, told the meeting: “This is not a closure programme. I haven’t said we won’t close any libraries. I have said we have not closed any libraries.”

The council says that its Devon Centres – following a model already being discussed for Exmouth - would offer a broader range of services.

A spokesman said: “Devon Centres would form the backbone of the county’s future library provision, offering high quality services to encourage reading; supporting access to information and learning; and promoting access to wider cultural activity alongside a wider range of complementary community services.”

In Budleigh, opinion is divided on what the proposals could mean.

County councillor for Budleigh Christine Channon said she was confident that increased community involvement would be found, citing the strong levels of volunteer help already at the library, and suggesting it could actually be a chance to improve the service.

She said: “There was a cutback in the hours three years ago, but on Saturday now there is someone there from the council but the others are volunteers.

“This is an area where people are extremely good at volunteering. If there is an opportunity to expand what’s going on in the library this is an opportunity we can grasp.

“I would chain myself to the railings if I thought they were going to close Budleigh Salterton Library, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.”

However, town deputy mayor Caz Sismore-Hunt said: “I think it’s appalling. Perhaps they would like to ask all the charities, including the Poppy Appeal, and anyone who relies on volunteers if they get an abundance of volunteers.

“We can’t get any volunteers, so where are these volunteers coming from to run the library?”

Budleigh Salterton Town Council will be discussing its response to the consultation at a special meeting on Monday.

In Topsham, a pre-existing plan by charity the Estuary League of Friends to take over the library will be considered for planning approval by Exeter City Council, also on Monday.

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