Surrey libraries plan approved by councillors for third time
Controversial plans for 10 Surrey libraries to be run by volunteers have been approved by councillors for a third time.
At a cabinet meeting of Surrey County Council (SCC) on July 24, councillors again voted for the 'lesser-used' branches, including Ewell Court, Stoneleigh and Tattenhams, to be run by trained volunteers by April 2013.
Members of SCC’s Communities Select Committee demanded the decision be ‘called-in’ for further scrutiny - on the basis that the decision was irrational and unreasonable, and because of the public outrage which followed it.
But, at the committee’s call-in meeting on Thursday (August 16), it ruled the plans could go ahead and the matter would not be referred back to SCC’s cabinet for reconsideration.
All seven Conservative members of the committee voted to proceed with the plan, with the two Liberal Democrat and two Residents’ Association members voting against it.
Councillor Helyn Clack, SCC's cabinet member for community services, said: "The way people use libraries is changing.
"The 10 libraries becoming community partnerships account for just 6 per cent of all library use and have limited opening hours.
"We’ve found a way to help smaller libraries thrive as we continue to adapt to the changing demands of library users, who are now using the online library more than three million times a year.
"Volunteers can now take a library that is closed three days a week and open its doors daily."
The Surrey Libraries Action Movement (SLAM) campaigning group, which opposes the plans, said the decision was "disappointing".
Its spokesman said: "SLAM, representatives of the community libraries and opposition councillors made the reasoned case for the decision to be referred back to cabinet to enable other more reasonable alternatives to be considered.
"But although the case to refer back seemed unanswerable, the politics of the situation was always going to play the last card."