Campaigners reeling from Fife Council’s decision to close 16 libraries, including four within the Glenrothes area, say time is now running out for alternative provision to be found.
Community groups have until Christmas to come forward with their own proposals ahead of the closure plan scheduled for spring 2016.
Councillors at last week’s executive committee meeting voted to press ahead with Fife Cultural Trust’s proposal to scrap the facilities as part of a bid to achieve £517,000 worth of the £813,000 of necessary savings by 2018.
The decision, described by campaigners as “deplorable”, will include the axing of Thornton, Pitteuchar, Markinch and Glenwood libraries, a move that they say is “disproportionate and unjust”.
“There has never been a Plan B, and we had a consultation process that proved to be nothing more than a tick box exercise. The council and the Cultural Trust haven’t even acknowledged a petition with nearly 6000 signatures calling on a re-think,” said Bryce Sutherland, from the campaign group Keep Fife’s Libraries Open.
“We have repeatedly requested impact assessments for each of these closures and received nothing. People are starting to realise it was always a done deal.”
Glenrothes councillor Ross Vettraino, who made a passionate plea in favour of Pitteuchar just before the committee made its decision, told the Gazette that while the financial decision may have now been made, the Council still had a duty to help any community group who wish to seek alternatives.
“It is the least the council and Cultural Trust can do to claw back any sort of respect from what is obviously a huge blow to many communities,” he said.
“The desire to relocate Pitteuchar library within the Exit Centre will massively improve the service, allow disabled access, something which is currently not available and help it benefit from the large public usage that the Exit Centre has worked hard to achieve.
“There is a huge opportunity here. The public wants it, now Fife Council needs to see beyond merely just cutting services.”
Residents in both Thornton and Markinch have expressed an interest in ways to save their library, but firm commitments have yet to be registered.
Meanwhile, Fife Council say they are now exploring the possibility of library services being relocated to nearby high schools.
The council says it also recognises the particular impact on Glenwood and have committed to what they have called a “comprehensive regeneration plan for the Glenwood area” to be developed in partnership with the local community.
Following the closure announcement Stuart Cross, chairman of Fife Cultural Trust said: “We absolutely understand the impact of our proposal on communities, but we believe it is better to take the opportunity to make radical changes to libraries now rather than face potential cuts and increased uncertainty on a regular basis in the years to come.
“We did not develop our proposal lightly but we are looking beyond the savings to a long-term sustainability.”