Council U-turn expected over 'devastating' library closures

A council U-turn over ‘devastating’ proposed library closures in Windsor and Maidenhead now seems probable.

Plans were unveiled in February to close four of the borough’s libraries, including Boyn Grove, and reduce the opening hours of others to a total of 217.5 per week. But following a public consultation which received more than 1,000 responses, the local authority has scaled back its cost-cutting measures which will see every facility saved from closure.

This will be achieved by scrapping the council’s mobile library service and replacing it with a select and deliver scheme which will see volunteers deliver books to housebound residents.

A total of 39.5 hours will be shaved off the opening times of libraries across the borough with parish councils also set to financially contribute to help keep venues open.

Councillor Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) said: “I’m really pleased the administration has backed down from its proposals to close libraries like Boyn Grove.

“The fact this consultation was done so well has laid bare the devastating impact these closures would have had on residents.”

Deputy leader of the council, Councillor Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle), told the meeting the consultation process had been a ‘learning curve’ for the local authority.

She added nobody wanted to see libraries close but a more sustainable operating model had to be delivered in the borough.

Independent councillor Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West) raised concerns over increasing pressure being placed on parish councils to raise precepts to help fund library services.

He said: “The over-reliance on parish councils to deliver is wrong in my opinion.”

Cllr Rayner responded: “We’re not saying to parish councils ‘we need your money to survive’.

“We’re saying to parish councils, we have this fantastic service, do you want more of it, do you want to add to it and do you want to become our partners and make an even stronger service?”

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