Proposals agreed to support independent libraries and transfer buildings to communities

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lancashire County Council has agreed to help establish four independent community-run libraries, and transfer ownership of a number of buildings to community organisations to allow them to provide a range of community-based activities.

The council agreed earlier this 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 and services.

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.

County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of the county council, has made a number of decisions relating to proposals from community organisations to take on ownership of buildings which the county council no longer needs.

These 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.

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, has made further decisions to agree a number of proposals for support to establish independent community libraries.

• Crawshawbooth Library and Community Centre will be transferred to Crawshawbooth Community Association to provide an independent community library, including providing children's books, large print books and a book exchange. The Association will also continue to operate the building as a centre for community-based activities, including a pre-school and out-of-school club.

• Trawden Library and Children's Centre will be transferred to Trustees of Trawden Forest Community Centre to provide a range of services and facilities within the village, including an independent community library, a volunteer-led community co-operative shop and a post office. The proposal will benefit the wider community including older residents, people with disabilities and young families with an emphasis on reducing social isolation and promoting digital inclusion.

• Oswaldtwistle Library will be transferred to the Oswaldtwistle Lamp group to provide an independent community library. Lamp are also proposing to strengthen trade and encourage new business by offering space to entrepreneurs, as well as offer volunteering opportunities to increase people's employability and reduce social isolation.

• Whitewell Bottom Community Centre will be transferred to Whitewell Bottom Community Association following a proposal focused on using the centre to provide a range of community activities for people of all ages. This would also allow Whitewell Bottom Pre-School to continue using the building.

• Stoops and Hargher Clough Community Centre will be transferred to West End (Burnley) Community Interest Company following a bid focused on using the building as a community hub to continue to provide a range of activities for people of all ages, tackling issues such as unemployment, ill-health, and low educational attainment.

• It has also been agreed in principle that an independent community library can be established by Mercer 1842 at the Arthur Wilson Centre, Hyndburn, using the book stock and resources from the former Clayton-le-Moors library. The Arthur Wilson Centre is not a county council building.

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 43 business cases for a variety of buildings, and are now in a position to make a decision about some of them. We have considered each of the proposals very carefully, particularly taking into account the longer term sustainability of what is being proposed, and the buildings' market value, bearing in mind that asset transfer will mean forgoing funds which could be raised by selling them.

"We have also decided to support four proposals to access our package of support to help establish independent, community-run libraries, which will complement the statutory service which the county council provides.

"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 which are based on strong business cases."

Further decisions have been taken to decline applications for Community Asset Transfers relating to three buildings which the county council no longer needs - Earby Library, Barrowford Library, and Whalley Library and Spring Wood Children's Centre.

Tagged as: Council

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