LYNDHURST and Blackfield are among up to 10 Hampshire libraries facing the axe alongside dozens of jobs as county council bosses try to balance the books.
The number of lending branches could drop from 48 to 38 and the remaining ones see a 15% reduction in their opening hours as part of a restructure of the library service, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Conservative-run Hampshire County Council said there is still a possibility for all its libraries to remain open – but that would mean a 25% reduction in their opening hours.
Residents are now being asked to have their say on the two proposed options or suggest new ways that would help HCC save £1.76m from the library service by 2021, as part of an overall £80m savings target.
The move also means that between 40 to 50 jobs would be at risk.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Hilary Brand, who represents Lyndhurst on New Forest District Council, said closure of the village’s library would be a “huge loss”.
She added: “It would be a real shame for Lyndhurst. There’s a lot of young families that use in on a regular basis. Elderly people also use it for computer training.
“It would be a huge loss. I think they need to save the money elsewhere. HCC have had huge cuts in government funding themselves which makes it difficult. But they have already cut library services. Another round of cuts will impact the community.”
Documents released today as part of a 10-week public consultation revealed that the libraries at risk of closure have been judged by how many people use them, as well as cost and what access residents have to other locations.
Others under threat are Fair Oak library, Chineham and South Ham libraries in Basingstoke, Elson library in Gosport, Emsworth library in Havant, Horndean in East Hampshire, Lee-on-the-Solent library in Gosport and Odiham library in Hart.
Kingsclere Community Library, Lowford Community Library, Milford-on-Sea Community Library and North Baddesley Community Library may be turned into independent community-managed libraries no longer be supported by the county council and run entirely by volunteers.
Documents have revealed that 300 people work full-time across libraries in Hampshire.
Cllr Sean Woodward, cabinet member for recreation and heritage at Conservative-run HCC, said the authority is “absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service”.
He added: “No decisions will be made until all the consultation responses have been fully analysed. I would therefore urge everyone who lives, works or studies in Hampshire to come forward and have their say.”
A final decision on the proposal is expected to be made in the summer followed by a further consultation on opening hours. Changes would be implemented this autumn.
The consultation will close on 18th March and the authority. To comment, go to www.hants.gov.uk/library-consultation.