Thursday, March 09, 2017
Lancashire County Council has agreed to help establish two more independent community-run libraries, and transfer ownership of a number of further buildings to local organisations to allow them to provide a range of community-based activities.
The council agreed last year to reduce the number of buildings it owns and rents, and form a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, to provide a base for a range of different services in one place. The decisions made as part of the council's Property Strategy included reducing the number of buildings where library services are provided.
During public consultation on the Property Strategy the council agreed to explore proposals by community groups and other organisations to take on responsibility for running some of the affected buildings.
The council also agreed a package of help to establish independent community-run libraries, which are in addition to the statutory service provided by the county council. The support package includes £5,000 to provide public internet access and cover set-up costs, as well as shelving, an initial supply of books from the county's store, and advice from a dedicated community library manager. When an independent community library becomes operational, the council will also continue to provide support through an annual grant of £1,000 to provide public internet access.
The council has received 43 business cases in all, and proposals were agreed in December 2016 to establish five independent libraries and go ahead in principle with the transfer of five buildings.
Today, County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of the county council, has agreed that community organisations can take ownership of a further six buildings, with the county council to help independent community libraries become established in two of them.
The proposals have been considered according to the council's Community and Asset Transfer (CAT) policy, which provides criteria for the council to consider when transferring into community ownership assets which could improve people's economic, social, or environmental wellbeing.
The decisions to go ahead in principle with a number of CATs have taken into account a number of factors, including the funds which the council could otherwise potentially have raised from the sale of the buildings, and whether community groups have the capacity, governance and financial resources to make a success of their proposals. All of the proposals are subject to further discussion and final agreement on the terms of the transfer.
• Thornton Youth and Community Centre will be transferred to Wyre District Scouts Council to use as a headquarters. Their proposal is also to develop the building for community use throughout the day by local groups including sports clubs, mothers and toddlers groups, and health clubs.
• Kirkham Library will be transferred to Kirkham Town Council which is due to take the lead in setting up a Trust or community interest company to manage the building. They propose to provide meeting rooms and space for a range of community activities from after school clubs, to exercise classes, and volunteering opportunities. Kirkham Library is currently operational and will only close when the service has been re-provided in Milbanke Day Centre, Kirkham.
• Belmont Community Centre in Burnley will be transferred to Belmont Community Association, which has managed the building for 35 years. It is currently used by more than 100 people a week and provides a range of educational and volunteering activities. They propose to encourage wider use of the centre and seek opportunities to ensure the community centre is sustainable into the future.
• Pike Hill Library in Burnley will be transferred to the Veterans Association UK charity. The county council has also made a further decision to provide support for the development of an independent community-run library. The charity offers a wide range of services for veterans, but also extends help to the wider community. The charity is proposing to expand its existing services while also offering facilities for use by other local organisations.
• Silverdale Library will be transferred to Sliverdale Parish Council. The county council has also made a further decision to provide support for the development of an independent community-run library. The parish council intends to create a Community Interest Company to be staffed by volunteers to develop a community library with internet access, and spaces for educational activities and for local groups to use.
• The former Burscough Bridge Interchange building will be transferred to a proposed charitable trust, due to be established by Burscough Parish Council working with partner organisations. The proposal is to develop the building to provide a space for community-led activities and projects.
County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader for Lancashire County Council, said: "The aim of our property strategy is to ensure we have the buildings we need to provide good access to good services, while making some of the enormous savings we need make due to ongoing government cuts and rising demand for services.
"We said at the start of this process that we would consider proposals from groups who may want to take on full responsibility for council-owned buildings which we no longer need, in order to use for the benefit of the community, under the provisions of our Community Asset Transfer policy.
"We have received business cases relating to a variety of buildings, and have been working with the organisations which have submitted them to ensure we have the information we need to make a decision.
"This is the second set of decisions we have made to support in principle a number of asset transfers as part of the property strategy. We have considered each of the proposals very carefully, and have taken into account the sustainability of these proposals, and the buildings' market value bearing in mind that we will forgo any funds which could have been raised by selling them.
"I'm pleased that two of the proposals are to establish further independent community libraries, and make us of the county council's package of support to create libraries which will complement the statutory service provided by the county council.
"Services which are owned and run by the community have a particular value as they can respond flexibly to local needs, and I'm very pleased that we're able to support these proposals."
Further decisions have been taken to decline applications for Community Asset Transfers relating to two buildings – Heysham Young People's Centre and Children's Centre, and Clayton Brook Children's Centre in Chorley. Heysham Youth and Community Centre Playgroup will continue to deliver services from Heysham Young People's Centre and Children's Centre. Clayton Brook Children's Centre will be offered to the school on whose site it is based.
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