16 library closures and one close-up scrutiny...

Councillor George Kay with supporters of the Save Kinghorn Library campaign
Councillor George Kay with supporters of the Save Kinghorn Library campaign

Proposals to close 16 libraries across Fife will be put under the spotlight by a council scrutiny committee next week.

The controversial plan by Fife Cultural Trust – which manages the Kingdom’s libraries on behalf of the council – aims to create a network using what it calls a ‘hub and spoke’ model.

The education, health and social care scrutiny committee first called for a report on this model of operation in April last year.

And it will finally get the chance to debate the matter when the long-awaited report is presented to its members on Tuesday.

Councillor Susan Leslie, who chairs the committee, said: “It has been impossible to progress this as Fife Council officers have, up until now, failed to provide the required report.

“We are now left looking at the proposed model at the same time as proposed libraries closures.”

The committee first called for a report on the ‘hub and spoke’ model – a combination of larger ‘hub’ libraries and smaller ‘spoke’ branches – when the trust began its review which led to the proposal to cut the number of libraries in Fife from 51 to 36.

The plan is currently out for consultation - but it has already been met with opposition in communities across the Kingdom. There are now individuals or groups actively campaigning to save libraries in Kinghorn, Glenrothes, east Wemyss and north-east Fife.

On Tuesday, councillors will examine the hub and spoke model, before looking at specific proposals to close libraries and consider some of the initial consultation responses.

Cllr Leslie said: “The consultation process has only just started so the committee will not be able to comment, at this stage, on the proposals, or results of the consultation that will go to the executive committee for a decision.

“However, we will be able to return to this matter and comment further at our meetings in September.

“It is important that the scrutiny committee fulfils its role in examining proposals and offering comment to the executive committee.”

The scrutiny committee will meet at Town House, Kirkcaldy, on Tuesday, August 11. In the morning, members will be looking at the social work budget.

They will begin examining the library proposals at 1.30pm.

Community plans phase two of its campaign

Five levels of governance came together to condemn the proposed closure of Kinghorn library at a packed meeting of almost 100 residents last week.

They heard politicians from the SNP denounce the proposed closure as a “ridiculous policy”.

The meeting was introduced by local councillor George Kay, with contributions from Lewis Ackers of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Roger Mullin MP, David Torrance MSP and Alan McIlravie, chairman of Kinghorn Community Council.

Despite requests from Councillor Kay, no-one from Fife Council or the Trust attended.

Cllr Kay said: “I contacted both about five weeks ago.

‘‘After five attempts and making various compromises I was told no-one was available.

‘‘I find it very strange that, in a situation where a community is being deprived of what should be a basic necessity, that no-one responsible for implementing this decision felt it necessary to take the opportunity to speak to that community.”

The meeting heard that at a Community Council meeting the previous week, officers were asked about the criteria for closing libraries - and said they were not prepared publicly to compare one with another.

Mr Mullin is to write to the chief executive deploring the fact that such decisions could be made without scrutiny of the criteria.

Asked for suggestions on how the library could be saved, a large percentage volunteered to participate in a group to gather momentum behind the next phase of the campaign.

Cllr Kay added: “We will hopefully not just save Kinghorn library, but also make the council reappraise its ridiculous policies on all library closures.”