A FIGHT has been lost by Lechlade library campaigners today after Gloucestershire County Council made the final decision to hand over the service to volunteers.
Ever since the town’s library was earmarked to become a community-run library as part of a GCC bid to save £1.8m, residents have desperately fought the scheme.
But at a cabinet meeting in Shire Hall earlier today, the fate of Lechlade library was sealed when councillors agreed to push forward with plans to hand seven Gloucestershire libraries over to volunteers to run.
Even before the decision was made, campaigners have argued the handover was a done deal and claim a GCC consultation process with nearly 4,000 people was a “sham”.
GCC’s proposed cuts to library services were ruled unlawful by the High Court last year, and the council was ordered to carry out a review of its proposals.
But Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries chairman, Johanna Anderson, said the new strategy was nearly a duplication of the original proposal, which was deemed to be unlawful.
At today's meeting, the council agreed that nine main libraries will stay open six days a week and 22 ‘local libraries’ will open with various opening hours.
Community-run libraries, such as Lechlade’s, will be given an annual grant of £10,000 and three hours of help by a trained librarian each week. And for volunteer run libraries, communities will also have the chance to buy the building or take over leases on a peppercorn rent.
Last month a glimmer of hope was given when neighbouring Fairford town council agreed to consider transferring GCC library funding to support a Lechlade facility.
And at little or no extra cost to GCC, members of Lechlade library working group believed this was the perfect solution to keeping a county-run service in the town, while still making the required savings for the council.
But this idea was dismissed by council officers and was formally rejected by cabinet members earlier today.
Lechlade and district councillor Sue Coakley said: "I'm amazed that GCC could reject, out of hand, a request endorsed by two town councils that achieves the targeted savings.
"The consultation has clearly demonstrated a strong demand to retain a county library in Lechlade - why spend £60,000 on the process if they are simply going to ignore the results?"
The town will now be forced to rally volunteers to run the library or face closing the service completely.