Library could face the chop in big cuts plan
NEWQUAY library could face the axe as part of draconian cuts proposed by Cornwall Council that could leave just nine out of 32 left standing in the county.
This is the fear of Liberal Democrat councillors ahead of a crunch budget meeting of the council's Conservative-led Cabinet yesterday.
Members were set to discuss a range of measures aimed at clawing back £110 million of savings over four years.
Geoff Brown, county councillor for Newquay Central, told the Cornish Guardian the cost-cutting proposals contained "sinister and veiled threats" about the future of 23 libraries.
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No mention has been made to the loss of specific branches, but last month a leaked document revealed that more than two thirds could be closed or passed to community ownership.
The news led the council to issue a statement declaring that there were "no plans" to close any libraries in the next 12 months – although no mention was made of 2012 onwards.
Mr Brown said he was concerned that, by not naming branches until the last minute, the council would leave communities no time to mount a campaign to save theirs from the chop.
He said: "Newquay could well be in the firing line to be cut and my concern is we're not being given the chance to fight it.
"We know we have to make cuts and everyone is feeling the pinch. But I'm committed to saving frontline services and Newquay library is one of those.
"It is used by the most vulnerable in our society, young children, students and the elderly and for many is a vital source of information, entertainment and access to the worldwide web. Once it's gone, it's gone."
County councillor for Newquay Treloggan, George Edwards, added: "Our fear is that if we lose the library facility we will never regain it. We must protect it at all costs."
The council has stated that it expects to make £1 million of cuts from changes to the library service by the end of 2012/13.
But according to Mr Brown, all cuts to front-line services are unnecessary as the council has got its sums wrong.
He said the figure of £110 million was based on the assumption that, following its spending review, the Government would slash the council's budget by 30 per cent.
But the actual figure was more likely to be between 26 and 28 per cent, meaning the local authority 'only' had to find savings of around £105 to £106 million.
A council spokeswoman said the figure would not be officially announced by the Government until the beginning of December.
Joan Symons, the council's Cabinet member for customer first and culture, said: "Our aim is to deliver the first year's savings through internal efficiencies without closing any of the 29 static branch libraries and we are on track to achieve this.
This will allow the member group time to put forward options for the future of the service in order to achieve the rest of the savings required for the second year (2012/13) and beyond.
"We have a statutory duty to provide a 'comprehensive and efficient' library service in Cornwall and are looking at all possible options available to accomplish this duty and achieve a stable and sustainable service."