Report to recommend three under-threat Moray libraries remain open

Moray Councillors will consider a recommendation that three of the seven local libraries scheduled for closure should remain open.

A special meeting of the full council is due to convene on September 10 when they will consider the Equality Impact Assessment ordered as a result of a decision in March to close libraries.

The action by the councils administration was proposed as part of their plans to make budget savings of £24million over the next four years.

However, the library plans were met with a hostile reception by several communities, notably in Rothes and Burghead. A march was held in Burghead that saw several hundred residents protest against the closures, supported by local MSP Richard Lochhead and MP Angus Robertson.

Leading authors from around the UK also highlighted what they called an ‘unacceptable’ attack on public libraries.

The report being put before councillors has concluded that closure of the seven libraries and one mobile library would have an adverse affect on the elderly, people with disabilities and families with young children.

Councillors will also learn from the report that Moray Council had to have an ‘objective justification’ for closing the libraries, adding the need for budget savings could be taken into account in this – but it did not in itself justify the action.

In the report, prepared by Libraries and Museums manager Alistair Campbell, it has been recommended that three of the seven libraries are retained mainly on the grounds of their being used as public internet access points.

Mr Campbell says: “From consideration of all factors an appropriate provision would involve the retention of the libraries in Cullen, Burghead and Dufftown.

“The retention of the library in Cullen will reduce the impact in relation to access to alternative libraries, both in distance and in cost of transport.

“The retention of the library in Burghead will reduce the impact in relation to access to alternative libraries and access to ICT. At present the area contains areas with limited access to broadband.

“The retention of Dufftown will reduce the impact on access, particularly for its rural hinterland and the impact in relation to access to ICT. The area around Dufftown contains areas with no access to broadband.

“It is not anticipated that this will be overcome by the investment by HIE aimed at improving the broadband infrastructure.”

Mr Campbell’s report adds: “The retention of these three libraries of the seven under consideration represents a proportionate response and the best balance achievable within a strategic network of provision.”

If accepted by councillors the decision will bring joy to those communities retaining their library service but dismay in Rothes, Findochty, Portknockie and Hopeman, where the closures will likely go ahead.

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