Fate of four libraries may rest with three Labour councillors

Hopeman Library – highest footfall.

The future of four libraries scheduled for closure by Moray Council could rest with three Labour opposition councillors and a single Independent.

Following the announcement by the leader of Moray Council on Monday that his Tory/Independent group would vote to follow the recommendations of an Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) and so save three of the seven libraries scheduled for closure, the nine-strong SNP opposition group has pledged to press ahead with their proposal that all seven libraries and one mobile library remain in operation.

The decision by the administration group followed a private meeting on Monday when they assessed the legal threat launched by Save our Libraries Moray.

While the leader of Moray Council, Allan Wright, insisted that the group continued to believe they were correct in ignoring the EIA in September, they are now preparing to back down in the face of a lengthy and expensive fight in the Court of Session.

However, a spokesman for the campaign group insisted this morning that if the administration really believed they were acting legally then they would have defended their case.  The spokesman said: “Legal advice received by the campaign was quite clear, the administration did not follow correct procedures in their rush to close the libraries.

“That went far beyond ignoring their own EIA – there were areas such as proper consultation with local communities that fell far short of what would normally be required to take such drastic action.

“It is still our contention that the case to retain all seven libraries and the mobile service is a strong one.  Moray Council spent over half a million pounds in upgrades to five of the seven libraries they proposed to close, while they have admitted themselves that £72,000 has to be repaid in European Funding.

“That includes £27,000 in European Funding for Hopeman alone, a library with one of the highest footfalls in Moray – and yet the local authority still propose to shut it down.”

To succeed the SNP motion on Wednesday for retention of all seven libraries requires support from the three Labour opposition councillors and just one of the Independents – three of whom represent the Heldon & Laich ward on which Hopeman library stands.

Leave a comment