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Residents in Sandwich told a charitable trust would enable libraries to be "bespoke"

By Emily Stott

Residents in Sandwich have been told a charitable trust would enable libraries to get rid of “one size fits all” policies.

This was the message at the public meeting at the Guildhall on Wednesday, from James Pearson, project manager at Kent Libraries.

He said he understands services need to be “bespoke” after concerns were raised about the future of libraries under a charitable trust and its opening hours.

Sandwich Library Guild members Margaret Simpson,Cilla Phillips and Robert Tomlins
Sandwich Library Guild members Margaret Simpson,Cilla Phillips and Robert Tomlins

Kimberley Anderson, resident in Sandwich and project manager at Discovery Park, said: “The library is closed on Wednesday afternoons when the major schools in the area are closed and they could be going to the library. Hundreds of kids could go there.”

Mr Pearson said: “With a charitable trust we would look at how we could make opening hours better reflect the local need rather than a county template.

“It is easy to look at it at a county level but the services do need to be bespoke to meet the local need and through the charitable trust there would be opportunities to deliver that.”

The Library Guild raised its concerns with Mr Pearson about the validity of the consultation when a business plan has not been made available to residents.

“What we want are guarantees. We want to know that our services will be maintained.” - Paul Carter, Sandwich Town councillor.

He said: “The charitable trust itself would develop a business plan. KCC will ensure that it’s acceptable.

“This isn’t about fixing something, we’re very proud of the services we deliver.”

John Simmonds, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and procurement at Kent County Council, explained some of the reasons why cuts need to be made across the county, as well as touching on the subject of libraries.

He said: “Libraries can’t be exempt from the world we have got. We have probably got twice as many libraries as any other authority.

“There’s kindles and e-books now and its a difficult balance.”

KCC says handing over library services to a charitable trust would mean it can access funding and will not have to pay business rates.

It also says that it will still be responsible meaning major changes, such as closures, would go through KCC and up for a public consultation.

Sandwich town councillor, Paul Carter said: “What we want are guarantees. We want to know that our services will be maintained.”

Loud applause signalled that this is how the majority of residents in Sandwich feel.

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