Councillors in Fife have voted to close 16 libraries – although some will remain open for up to a year.
Eight libraries – Markinch, Pitteuchar, Kinghorn, Falkland, Colinsburgh, Crail, Pittenweem and East Wemyss – have been granted a stay of execution while ‘alternative delivery models’ are explored.
Libraries in Glenwood (Glenrothes) and Abbeyview (Dunfermline) will also stay open for the time being, while feasibility studies are carried out into the possibility of introducing community use libraries at Glenwood and Woodmill high schools.
Five libraries – Thornton, Freuchie, Bowhill, Crossgates and Lundin Links – are now scheduled to close at the end of March.
Townhill library was originally due to close in March 2017, and that date has remained unchanged.
At a meeting of the full Fife Council, members considered a report which revealed 11 alternative delivery models had been proposed for eight of the closure-threatened libraries.
The report stated that in the case of Lundin Links, no expressions of interest in proposing alternative arrangements were received, but a number of councillors, including Ally Hunter and Elizabeth Riches, insisted this was not the case.
Cllr Hunter pointed out that the report stated those wishing to propose alternative delivery models had until February 26 to submit their applications, and the council was wrong to be taking a decision to close libraries before this date.
He said Largo Community Council had clearly stated it would be submitting a proposal in relation to Lundin Links Library, and as the deadline had not passed, it still had the right to do so.
The SNP group proposed delaying the closure of all 16 libraries for a further year while alternative proposals were sought from all the communities affected. The Conservatives called for greater control over budgets to be given to area committees. It would then be up to them to decide the spending priorities in their areas, including whether to not to continue funding their libraries.
However, it was the Labour administration’s motion that secured the most votes – 36, compared to 32 for the SNP and two for the Conservatives.
The decision means negotiations will continue with the organisations that have expressed an interest in providing alternative models.
One-off grants of up to £5000 per community organisation will also be available to help plan and implement the alternative models.
Speaking about the decision, council leader David Ross said: “We all know this is a sensitive and difficult position but it’s vital that we continue to deliver a fit for purpose, sustainable library service for Fife against the backdrop of significant financial challenge.
“Under these difficult circumstances I believe that this decision is the best way to do this. We have not impacted on the book fund or school library service and will still have one of the largest library networks in Scotland.
“I’m pleased that 11 proposals for alternative delivery models at eight libraries have been brought forward and they will be progressed.”