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Kent libraries be run by charitable trust under KCC plans

Libraries in Kent are set to be run by a charitable trust under county council plans unveiled today.

The council has announced a 12-week consultation on a proposal to pass over the job of running libraries to a charitable trust as it bids to save money in the face of a continuing public sector spending squeeze.

Although the council says no library closures are anticipated “at the present time” the trust could change opening hours - including increasing the times they are open.

The library could be one of the best places to escape the Christmas hype
The library could be one of the best places to escape the Christmas hype

The proposal would affect more than 500 staff as they will come under the control of the trust.

One advantage would be that as a charity, the trust would be exempt from paying business rates which currently cost KCC about £500,000 a year.

Cllr Mike Hill (Con), KCC cabinet member for communities, said the service needed to save £3.27m over the next few years.

“Our Libraries, Registration and Archive service benefits residents across Kent each year and we want to make sure this continues. Over the last few years we have made major capital investments of some £30million into the library service.”

He added: “We recognise how important and valuable these services are to the public. Moving to a trust model will give us the flexibility to change and improve services in the best way possible for residents.”

"Moving to a trust model will give us the flexibility to change and improve services in the best way possible for residents” - Cllr Mike Hill

KCC would continue to own its 99 libraries and would lease them to the trust.

In common with other councils, KCC has faced a decline in the number of people borrowing books along with the growing popularity of e-readers.

Despite this, KCC has invested heavily in redeveloping several libraries as “gateway centres” providing access to other council services. In the last three years, the council has spent £30m on redeveloping and building new libraries.

The trust model has been already been adapted by many councils, including Bromley, Buckinghamshire and Bolton. In November, Birmingham City Council - the largest in the UK - began a similar consultation.

Details of the KCC consultation can be found online from Monday.

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