THE closure of Lyndhurst and Blackfield libraries has been confirmed by Hampshire County Council as part of a £1.76m cost-cutting programme.
The community library at Milford will also lose its support, Cllr Sean Woodward, the HCC cabinet member for recreation and heritage, agreed at his decision day on Tuesday.
Cllr Alexis McEvoy, the Conservative county councillor for Blackfield who had previously handed in a petition of over 800 signatures from campaigners trying to save the village’s library, told the A&T: “Obviously I’m very disappointed. Unfortunately, we had a low membership and we do have Hythe [library] quite close, but nevertheless we do have residents who cannot get there. Having a local hub was very important for them.”
Cllr Hilary Brand, the district representative for Lyndhurst, who led a campaign against the loss of its library, said: “It is really disappointing and such a shame. There was massive support for it in the village and it will be a great loss.”
She added she would look into ways the library could continue in the village, with community support instead.
Blackfield and Lyndhurst are among a total of eight closures across the county. All the remaining libraries will have their opening hours reduced by an average of 20%, with a public consultation on the details.
Cllr Woodward said: “In coming to this decision, we have carefully analysed data on library use, alongside the valuable input of more than 21,000 people who shared their views in our public consultation. I have spoken to many consultees and visited every library in Hampshire.
“More than 70% of respondents agreed with the need for Hampshire’s Library Service to adapt to meet the changing demands placed on it. Proposals to deliver efficiencies, generate additional income and explore different ways of delivering library services all received high levels of support. We will be exploring these areas as we start to shape the service for the future.”
The consultation outlined the need for a reduction of £1.76m from the library budget in line with savings that all county council services must make, to bridge the funding gap faced by local authorities everywhere as demands for services rise, particularly in social care.
Cllr Woodward added: “The recommendations I have agreed today put the library service in a strong position to meet the savings that are required now as well as likely in the future.
“They recognise the public preference expressed in the consultation of a reduction of hours over individual closures, and we have reduced the number of libraries proposed for closure from 10 to eight accordingly. These eight libraries currently account for less than 5% of issues and only 5% of visits to all libraries in Hampshire.
“However, we have put a in place package of measures which could see these eight libraries continuing by transitioning into community libraries, and we’re providing county council support to help them to do that.
“Of course, closing any library is a hard thing to have to do. I am pleased that voluntary groups have taken a strong interest in running their local libraries independently. We will be doing what we can to help these communities get these projects off the ground.”
A public consultation will be launched on 3rd August to confirm the opening times at each council-run library. This can found at www.hants.gov.uk/library-consultation and will run for two weeks.