Campaigners in north east Fife are urging the council’s executive committee to review its “unsafe” decision to close libraries.
Several groups across north east Fife joined forces to oppose Fife Council plans to close 16 libraries across the Kingdom, and, in particular, six in their area, and have welcomed the move this week by the local authority’s scrutiny committee to remit the closure decision back to the executive committee.
Following a three hour debate on Tuesday – and after a tied vote of 7-7 – scrutiny committee chairman Councillor Susan Leslie used her casting vote to support a motion by SNP councillor Julie Ford requesting Fife Council agrees to find additional one-off funding of £571,000 to ensure all Fife libraries proposed for closure can be kept open for a further year.
This funding would allow Fife Cultural Trust and local communities to develop credible delivery options for the libraries facing closure, including those in Falkland, Freuchie, Lundin Links, Colinsburgh, Crail and Pittenweem.
The committee also requested seven conditions were met including greater engagement with communities, and giving full consideration to each individual equality impact assessment and their consequences, rather than only the two page summarised Fife-wide version.
Welcoming the decision, a spokesman for the North East Fife Libraries Group said: “This is the first step on the road and a lot depends on what members of the executive committee – who originally voted to close our libraries – do when they meet next Tuesday (January 12).
“We ask them to reconsider their original decision, a decision which was ‘unsafe’ and predicated on misrepresented evidence. We also ask them to adopt the resolutions of the scrutiny committee which calls for the council to find £571,000 to keep libraries open for the time being while thorough and proper consideration of the impact can be assessed.
“There is also new information available which should compel them to look at this again.
“We will not give up fighting to keep our libraries open and are very grateful to our local MP Stephen Gethins and MSP Roderick Campbell for their support, as well as the local councillors who opposed the closures, for speaking out on our behalf.”
North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins, who praised the group for its hard work, said: “It is vital that executive committee members who voted to close libraries now realise how devastating this decision would be for communities across Fife.”
When the executive committee meets on Tuesday, members will have to decide whether to accept the scrutiny’s committee recommendations, in which case they will be implemented, or reject them, in which case the matter will be referred to the full council for a final decision.