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Sunday February 17 2019

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In Full . . .

Library ‘a special case’

Posted on January 31 2019 at 1:59:49

The consultation into the future of libraries across Worcestershire has still failed to grasp the scale of the problem it faces in Alvechurch, say councillors.

The pre-cost-cutting exercise has now been extended until the end of February, giving villagers more time to respond – although complaints have been made that the proposed ideas would be impossible to implement at Alvechurch Library, which is well-used and serves residents across The Village area.

The problem for the county council is that Alvechurch Library is part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract the county entered into more than ten years ago.

According to the consultation documents, the cost of the library premises alone is £46,400 per year – far more than the suggested “community” library could be expected to raise from local people.

County councillor Charlie Hotham told Alvechurch parish councillors: “If the county walked away from it, they would still be liable for all that cost and would need to honour that.

“This is not something that was a parish council or a residents’ decision and Worcestershire County Council needs to stand by it.”

Parish councillor John Cypher said: “Alvechurch is the only community library in the county which has a PFI and will therefore need special attention.

“You certainly get the impression that they are trying to push it out there into the community and let them take the strain.

“But to cover those costs makes Alvechurch a special case and it is really the county council’s problem.”

The fact that it is part of the first and middle schools in the village adds to the complexity of the case for Alvechurch. Yet it appears the county had not even consulted with the schools before a recent meeting.

Coun Hotham said: “To start with, they said they had consulted with the schools, then the chairman of governors stood up and said he had not been consulted and then the head of the Middle School said he had not been consulted.

“There was then a quick meeting between them and they said, ‘Ah, the school has not been consulted’.”

Parish councillor Sue Lambert confirmed this, saying: ”I am a governor and I can tell you it has not been discussed at governors’ meetings.”

Parish chairman Andy Humphries said: “This is so crucial; it is integral to the school.”

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