A RALLY in support of York’s libraries will be staged ahead of a crucial city council budget meeting on Thursday.

The meeting is expected to finalise a raft of proposed savings totalling more than £14 million the Labour-run authority says is necessary to start plugging a £40 million black hole in council finances.

Among the cuts proposed is a £300,000 reduction in the council’s contractual funding for Explore York libraries and archives in the year starting in April – followed by a further £300,000 cut the following year.

York’s opposition Liberal Democrats have proposed an ‘alternative budget’ in which they insist those cuts to library services are not necessary.

York Press: York Explore central library, outside which Thursday's 'Support our libraries' rally will be heldYork Explore central library, outside which Thursday's 'Support our libraries' rally will be held (Image: Supplied)

They have organised a rally outside York Explore central library at 4.30pm on Thursday – two hours before the start of the budget meeting – to ram home what they say is the ‘overwhelming’ opposition to the cuts.

But Labour have accused the Lib Dems of being unwilling to set a ‘prudent and sensible budget’.

They claim the Lib Dem approach could push the council closure to bankruptcy – and the risk of government officials being parachuted in to tell the authority which services to cut.


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Lib Dem group leader Cllr Nigel Ayre said: “Thursday’s rally will be an opportunity for residents, parents and librarians to show their support for the great work that York Explore’s libraries do.

“We have been overwhelmed with the response we have received from residents in opposition to the Labour council’s decision to axe £600,000 from the libraries budget.

“Residents are deeply concerned about what this cut will mean for the most disadvantaged in our society; those that rely on libraries for warm spaces in the winter, those without access to computers or the internet and community groups who will be left without meeting spaces.

“Hopefully we can demonstrate before the council meeting that there is a groundswell of support for our libraries.”

York Press: York's Lib Dem leader Cllr Nigel AyreYork's Lib Dem leader Cllr Nigel Ayre (Image: Supplied)

But Labour’s executive member for finance, Cllr Katie Lomas, said: “The Liberal Democrat petition is based on … choosing not to set a prudent and sensible budget.

“They would fund the library service based on funding that lasts for one year meaning they would be making these same cuts in 12 months’ time.

“We strongly believe their budget would push the council closer to issuing an effective bankruptcy notice to Government, something which would then be followed by Government-appointed officials, earning thousands per day, instructing York which of its non-core services to cut, as well as increasing council tax by as much as 10 per cent or more.

“I urge residents to support their excellent library service but to question what future Liberal Democrats have in store for them as local council taxpayers”.

York Press:  City of York Council's Labour executive member for health and wellbeing Cllr Jo Coles City of York Council's Labour executive member for health and wellbeing Cllr Jo Coles (Image: Supplied)

Explore York is an independent mutual organisation which runs the city’s 15 libraries and the city archive under contract to City of York Council.

Its funding is guaranteed under a 15-year contract with the council signed in 2019.

It is this contract the council wants to change, by reducing the library service’s annual funding over the next two years by a total of £600,000, from £2.6 million now to just £2 million by 2025/26.

Explore has said that, because its council funding is contractually agreed, the authority cannot just cut its budget without Explore’s agreement.