Campaigners who are fighting against cuts to Lincolnshire’s library service will have their case heard in the High Court in London on July 8 and 9.
In the meantime the county council has announced new opening hours for libraries, while pledging to give community groups who want to take over their library extra time to come forward.
The council wants to save £2 million by axing libraries, cutting jobs and getting rid of more than 100 mobile library stops but campaigners have argued the consultation process behind the plan was flawed and that the county will be left without a ‘comperehensive’ service which is required under the Libraries Act.
The Save Lincolnshire Libraries group is upset that the council is still going ahead with new opening times for the libraries before the matter comes to court, with details for the arrangements for after May 6 now made public.
Simon Draper, the applicant in the Judicial Review, said: “I welcome the decision of the County Council not to implement its plans to get rid of 30 libraries until the court decides.
“However I am very disappointed that it is still pressing ahead next week with its plans to get rid of jobs, to cut away the mobile library service from large numbers of villages in Lincolnshire and to slash the hours of the remaining libraries.
“Thousands of people are going to be losing their library service on the 6th of May. It is not good enough.”
Julie Harrison, spokesman for Save Lincolnshire Libraries and former head teacher, said: “We welcome a date being set for the Judicial Review. The sooner the court decides that the county council has acted illegally and should be providing a comprehensive library service across the whole County the better.
“It is still not too late for the County to change its mind and stop its mindless destruction of the Library Service on May 6.
“We appeal now for the county council to see sense and stop cutting all this, before we lose the immensely important and valuable library service in Lincolnshire which had over five million interactions with the public in the last year.”
New opening hours will come into force at local libraries on May 6, as well as a new schedule for mobile library services.
The council says it is continuing to work with a number of groups that are interested in setting up their own ‘community hub’, including a library service, as well as seven areas wishing to create brand new facilities.
Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “We wanted to give volunteers enough time to lay firm foundations for the future. So, we agreed to run the libraries at these locations at reduced hours, until they are ready to develop their own community hub.
“Our existing community-run libraries, such as Saxilby and Waddington, have seen a great increase in opening hours, thanks to the efforts of volunteers.
“We hope to have all the new hubs, with their library offer, up and running by the end of March next year.”
The council says that the cuts will keep 15 core libraries in key locations, the council will continue to provide free access to online services, including e-books, e-audio and e-magazines, the home library service, Listening Lincs and Bookstart.
It says larger mobile libraries will also continue to stop at more than 220 communities across Lincolnshire.
Coun Worth added: “One thing that was clear from the consultation last year was that rural communities valued their mobile services, and more than 100 additional stops were retained in our revised proposals.”
Details can now be found online at www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/libraries , by calling 01522 782010 or by visiting your local library.
The three libraries mostly affected by the changes in the Boston area are Kirton, Donington and Coningsby.
In Coningsby the opening hours from May 6 will be: