Libraries overhaul gets the green light

Pictures of new and old libraries, Berkhamsted
Pictures of new and old libraries, Berkhamsted

Plans to change the way libraries across Herts are run have been given the go-ahead by councillors, as part of a drive to save £500,000.

The running of libraries across the county will now go out to tender to be run by an outside provider.

But members of the county council’s cabinet have also backed plans to set up a ‘public service mutual’ which will bid to run the service.

The two decisions were taken at a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (October 22).

And the tendering process is expected to start next year, with control of the libraries being handed over by autumn 2019.

Council leader Cllr David Williams said the plans could allow the library service to benefit from additonal funding streams – while being underpinned by existing values.

He said: “I am immensely proud of the library service we provide to Hertfordshire residents – and I think those values underscore the sort of library service I am expecting to see going forward.

“But, in particular, this does provide opportunities to look at other funding streams, which – as a council-funded service – we are not able to access at the moment.

“I think there is a great future for the library service in Hertfordshire.”

The plans have been drawn up to make savings of £500,000 from the library budgets - without impacting on planned library improvements.

If no change is made to the way the services are delivered, there are fears libraries may have to close, opening hours may have to be reduced, and fewer materials purchased.

According to the plans, any alternative provider would have to commit to deliver the improvements in the council’s ‘Inspiring Libraries’ strategy.

It could, it is said, achieve significant savings without requiring reductions in services.

That’s largely because - provided it’s accepted as having charitable status – the ‘mutal’ would be exempt from business rates.