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Campaigner fights libraries plan

Campaigners outside Whitstable library. Right, Richard Stainton
Campaigners outside Whitstable library. Right, Richard Stainton

A petition to protect Kent’s libraries has been handed to KCC after a determined campaigner collected thousands of signatures. Richard Stainton, of Sydenham Street, Whitstable, started the ‘Save Our Public Libraries petition after it was revealed the authority intends to hand over the county’s network of 99 libraries to a charitable trust. The petition was delivered to KCC’s County Hall in Maidstone and the 4,127 signatures provided a snapshot of opinion in Herne Bay, Whitstable, Canterbury, Faversham and further afield. Mr Stainton said:

“When discussing the petition, local people have expressed pride in our library service. Many residents believe strongly that they should remain a public service, democratically accountable. Nobody described the service as broken so there is no need for a fix – certainly not an experimental step into the unknown like handing control to a trust.”

Supporters want Kent’s 99 libraries to remain a KCC-run public service, instead of being run by a charitable trust. KCC would continue to own its libraries but would lease them to the trust. Mr Stainton added:

“The petition is actually an expression of confidence in KCC with regard to libraries and a call to the council to carry on running our cost-effective and efficient libraries as a public service. My hope, shared by many Kent residents from across the political spectrum, is that the petition will encourage and inform the full debate by councillors that Paul Carter says is still to take place and then lead to our public libraries being saved for future generations.”

CRUCIAL MEETING

Kent County Council spokesman Murray Evans says the authority is considering the results of an extensive 12-week public consultation. He said:

“KCC has considered a number of options to find the best way to deliver services while contributing to the savings it has to make, and decided to recommend that the Libraries, Registration and Archives service is run by a charitable trust. The trust concept is KCC’s preferred option, as it would give the service more freedom and flexibility to grow and develop. There could also be greater community involvement, as welt as the benefits of a reduction in business rates and certain VAT exclusions. Under the proposals KCC would remain accountable for the Libraries, Registration and Archives service and would contract with the charitable trust to continue to provide the existing services to all Kent residents, with free access to books and ICT facilities, while also maintaining the historic archives.”

“The results of the consultation will be considered on May 20. No firm decision on the future of the library service has been taken, and the results of the public consultation will be fully taken into account.”

Herne Bay Gazette, April 23rd 2015

 

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