Cultural Trust wasn’t set up to cut library services

'We are in tough territory when it comes to the decision whether to close libraries,' said FCT's Laurie Piper
'We are in tough territory when it comes to the decision whether to close libraries,' said FCT's Laurie Piper

The blame for the possible closure of up to 16 libraries across the region must be laid at the door of Fife Council.

That was the message at a public meeting called in Markinch this week to consider the controversial shake-up.

Fife Cultural Trust has to make savings of £813,000 to Fife Council - and with libraries taking the majority of its budget, they are in the firing line.

Laurie Piper, head of customer service and external relations. said: “None of us wanted this to happen. It was not why the trust was set up, but with the fact that we have to find savings and the majority of our business being library provision, it was inevitable that libraries would bare the brunt,” said Mr Piper.

At the meeting, Mr Piper said it was the demand on FCT by Fife Council to find savings of £813,000 by 2018 on top of the £900,000 already achieved that has put the Trust in “tough territory”.

Around 65 per cent of funding the Trust receives from the local authority is used to deliver library services.

And, he said, the different way FCT had been treated from other similar organisations has had an impact.

“There have been £470,000 of savings which have come from us not having to pay non domestic business rates,” explained Mr Piper.

“When other similar trusts made those savings the money was passed back to help them deliver services but for some reason, only known to them, the Council didn’t pass those savings on to us.”

The closure plan is expected to achieve around £347,000 of the necessary savings.

“All I am saying is if we were treated the same way as other trusts were then we might not be here talking about library closures,”Mr Piper added.

Responding to the claim David Ross, Fife Council leader said: “My understanding is that when the Arts and Theatres Trust and Fife Sports and Leisure Trust were established in 2007/2008, the Council was keen to re-invest in both organisations which was an affordable approach at the time.

“By the time the decision was taken by the previous SNP led administration to use a trust mechanism to deliver libraries, arts, museums and archives in 2011/2012, the council was under much greater financial pressure. The establishment of FCT therefore was more about delivering savings than a re-investment opportunity.

“All trusts the Council has established to run services on its behalf are being expected to make savings in a similar way to other services and this is reflected in the reduction of their management fees.”

A decision on whethere to accept the final proposal will be made by the Council’s executive committee in December.