Sixteen libraries across Fife will close next year, Fife councillors have agreed.
Despite impassioned pleas from councillors and attempts to stop or defer the closures, the Fife Council’s Executive Committee members voted by a clear majority to the plans proposed by the Fife Cultural Trust (FCT) who now run the library service.
Now libraries at Abbeyview, Bowhill, Colinsburgh, Crail, Crossgates, East Wemyss, Falkland, Freuchie, Glenwood, Kinghorn, Lundin Links, Markinch, Pittenweem, Pitteuchar, Thornton and Townhill will close next spring.
The decision came after a major consultation exercise which saw thousands of people responding and four petitions against closures received. Although a survey showed opinion was fairly even split on the proposal overall, 61 per cent of library users disagreed with the plan.
Robin Presswood, the council’s head of economy, planning and employability services told councillors that: “All the officers have a heavy heart in presenting this to you.”
At the end of the day, though, councillors voted through the plans after Cllr David Ross, council leader, said: “I think the proposals we have put forward as an administration reach the best balance, allowing the cultural trust to go forward and working with communities to mitigate the closures.
“The Trust needs to have a degree of certainty on the way forward.”
The closures, realignment of the service including changes to the mobile library service, and subsequent staff cuts will achieve £571,000 in savings.
Over the next few months the council and the FCT will work with communities who have already expressed an interest in developing a community based library to develop their proposals. The council has also said it would welcome ideas from other communities affected - but want to hear from them before Christmas.
But after the meeting campaigner against the closures Bryce Sutherland said he didn’t think councillors had appreciated just how greatly the closures would affect people’s lives.
Describing the decision as “totally deplorable” Mr Sutherland said: “Delaying the process would have made a difference because I don’t think a lot of the communities were actively involved - it has all been rushed through. With proper community engagement perhaps viable alternatives would have been raised.”
North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins said he was very disappointed by the decision: ““Today’s decision will have a significant impact on so many communities. The young, elderly and unemployed will be most affected and that’s the real tragedy. Libraries, as the campaigns have shown, are about more than books; they’re about providing access to education, information and social interaction for all generations.”