“Community benefit society” plan for York's libraries moves step closer

PLANS for a revamp of the way York’s libraries are run are to be moved forward in a bid to save £250,000.

City of York Council’s cabinet will be asked when it meets on January 8 to give the go-ahead for a business plan to be drawn up for a “community benefit society”, which would be tasked with operating the city’s library and archive services.

The authority has to cut its libraries budget by ten per cent in 2013/14, and city leaders will be asked in the summer to decide whether the services should be transferred to such a society.

It would see the society funded by the council and acting on the council’s behalf, but it would be eligible for tax breaks and grants if set up as a charity.

It would be the first scheme of its kind in the UK.

Coun Sonja Crisp said: “Public libraries are vitally important, but continuing to run York’s library service as it is currently structured is not viable in the long-term with ongoing Government funding reductions.

“We have seen closures happening across the region, but York is committed to supporting exemplary and innovative libraries and Explore centres. We feel this approach is the best way of doing this.”

The cabinet will also be asked to approve extra work to involve the voluntary sector in helping run the libraries and giving staff more say in their future operation. If agreed, the community benefit society would be backed up by expert advice and support from a Government scheme designed to help local authorities find ways of tackling funding shortages.

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