Lincolnshire councillors have made their recommendation on who they want to run the remainder of the county’s publicly-funded libraries.
A report on the future of the service was presented to members of community and public safety scrutiny committee on Wednesday (November 25).
Last week it was revealed that Greenwich Leisure Limited, or GLL, was favourite to win the contract, and councillors voted to go along with that recommendation. A final decision will then be made by the executive committee on Tuesday next week (December 1).
Executive member for libraries Nick Worth (Con) said: “All the finalists submitted good bids, but officers believe our best option is to outsource our library services to GLL. We’ve worked hard to get the best possible deal, and are confident that GLL can provide both significant savings and improved performance.
“I’m sure the executive will give this matter careful consideration, and take the decision that is in the best interests of taxpayers.”
This is the latest step in the ongoing saga of Lincolnshire’s library service. In February the council voted to withdraw funding from two thirds of the county’s libraries, cutting the number of publicly-funded libraries to 15.
GLL originally put forward a proposal to run the whole of the county’s service during the first consultation on the cuts, but the council rejected the bid. A judicial review followed, and the High Court ruled the authority had failed to properly look at GLL’s idea and described the council’s alternative as “flawed”.
In April, the council began a search for an external organisation to potentially deliver these services on its behalf, following an approach by GLL. It received six applications, with GLL, Vision and Vivacity being shortlisted.
Now, having evaluated the organisations’ final bids, officers are recommending that library services be outsourced to GLL.
If the executive decides to award a contract, it would mean that GLL would run the county’s 15 major libraries, along with online services and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library. GLL will also help support the library services delivered at around 30 community hubs that are being developed in partnership with local groups.
Coun Worth said the council was working with local groups to get the hubs up and running.
“Eighteen have already opened their doors to the public, with a further 16 on the way.
“I’m sure the end result of all this hard work will be a new-and-improved library service that not only provides better value for money, but is also better suited to the 21st century,” he added.
Campaigners including the Save Lincolnshire Libraries group implored the council to accept GLL’s initial offer to run the whole service and keep all its libraries open. Labour county councillor for Deeping St James Phil Dilks said: “Accepting GLL is a welcome move which would never have happened were it not for campaigners willing to stand up for libraries.
“It is just a pity that the conversion on the road to Damascus has come so late in the day and only after libraries in places like Skellingthorpe, Washingborough and Coningsby/Tattershall have already been closed down.
“If Martin Hill and his executive had listened to sense – and the people of Lincolnshire - more than two years ago, we could have saved a great deal of heartache by ‘volunteers’ dragooned into taking over their libraries, as well as a shed full of money that could have been used to boost the library service.”
Not-for-profit organisation GLL’s libraries division currently manages library services in the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Wandsworth. It also manages three prison libraries and a youth offenders institute.
If the executive decides to accept the officers’ recommendation, GLL would begin delivering library services in April 2016.