Herts libraries service could be transferred to public service mutual

Royston Library

Royston Library - Credit: Archant

Plans to transfer the running of Hertfordshire libraries to a ‘public service mutual’ are being reconsidered as part of a further review of library services. 

‘Libraries for Life’ had been due to take over the running of the county’s libraries last year – with estimates suggesting the move could cut the cost of the service by £500,000 a year. 

But as a result of the pandemic, the transfer of the service was put on hold ‘indefinitely’, and now there is a review is looking at whether the transfer – or an ‘alternative option’ – should be pursued. 

The results of that review are expected to be reported to a meeting of the council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel next month. 

In a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, September 15, director of resources Scott Crudgington told councillors: “There was a move pre-pandemic to move our library service to a trust. 

“But as we were weeks away from that transfer – the board had all been established, all the arrangement for leases etc had been established."

Libraries for Life is a public service mutual that was created by people who work in the council’s library service. 

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A transfer to ‘Libraries for Life’ – which has charitable status – could cut the cost of the library service by an estimated £500,000 a year. 

Initially the transfer had been scheduled for December 2019 but was moved to April 2020, amid concerns that neither organisation was ready and that there were “several significant risks” for both parties. 

However, in the April it then emerged that the plans had been put on hold – for the ‘foreseeable future’ – because of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ of the pandemic. 

Following the meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the county council confirmed the ongoing review of library services. 

He said: "Once a conclusion has been reached our findings will be shared at the education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel on October 14. 

“As we continue to evaluate our options, we remain committed to delivering an outcome which allows us to provide our residents with the best possible libraries service.”