Council sets date for decision day on library closures plan

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New Forest libraries
Cllr Alexis McEvoy (second left), of South Waterside, received a petition supporting Blackfield library

COUNTY bosses are expected to make a decision over the future of 48 libraries across Hampshire later this month.

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Proposals include the possible closure of New Forest libraries at Lyndhurst and Blackfield, as well as turning Milford’s into a community facility without HCC support, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Under the plans, up to 10 branches across Hampshire could close and the remaining ones could see a 15% reduction in their opening hours.

Alternatively, all 48 council-run libraries could remain open but with their opening hours reduced by 25%.

The move – which sparked a campaign backed by several authors including Neil Gaiman and David Nicholls – would save HCC £1.76m by 2021.

Cllr Seán Woodward, HCC cabinet member for recreation and heritage, said the authority has now considered the feedback received during a public consultation and the recommendations will be published seven days before the meeting on 28th July.

The increase in people joining the digital library service over the past months is also set to be taken into account, Cllr Woodward said, but he stressed that this will not change the proposals.

As reported in the A&T, should the authority decide to propose a change in the libraries’ opening hours there will be another public consultation.

“It would be a local consultation on a library-by-library basis,” Cllr Woodward explained.

The news comes as the county council has also confirmed that libraries across the county will re-open on Monday following months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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