The threat to our libraries due to the funding crisis in Powys is now real and imminent. You may have heard that the portfolio holder responsible, Cllr. Graham Brown, has put a general deadline for town and community councils to commit to a 50% contribution by Nov 1st or the offer will be withdrawn and the closure process commenced.
Although this deadline is addressed to all those councils who currently have the benefit of library premises within their area they are, of course, not the only communities to benefit from such a facility. The problem facing us in Llanfyllin and the other areas is how to apportion and organise a fair contribution formula between all the beneficiary councils.
May I emphasise that in the case of the Llanfyllin facility, this process is well advanced and because of this Powys has agreed not to commence the closure process until our discussions have been completed. Our Town Council has put forward two suggestions to our neighbours: one based purely on membership by community; the second recognising the additional advantages to the town if the library is retained is, in the view of the town council, a very fair apportionment of the costs involved. This is to be discussed next week at the next ‘cluster’ meeting and we will have to strive for agreement there if we are to complete the process by January when the precepts (the local portion of the council tax) have to be set.
Let us be clear this is not a cost saving in overall terms, Powys will retain the management and the library will be run as it is now. This is a cost transfer from County to Community. In the case of Llanfyllin, under their latest proposal their ‘share’ would be £8,000, just over 50% of the total and equivalent to £5.22 per head of population per annum. The comparable figures for the other cluster councils range from £2.02 to £0.21 and average only £0.94 per head per annum. The detail for each council can be found below.
Once lost – cannot be replaced
These sums, though significant, are not huge and may be mitigated by some through the use of reserves. Our library is not just a book lending facility for as well as providing computers with the fastest broadband around, it is a portal to numerous Powys council services from bus passes to housing maintenance and payments to refuse collection. These services are sorely needed at a local level and once lost cannot be replaced. Llanfyllin councillors therefore believe this to be a responsible use of funds given the magnitude of the threat.
Please give your opinion to your community councillors. They will be meeting in November to ratify whatever decision we come to. You can comment below – feedback will be most welcome.
– Cllr John Brautigam
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