Campaigners who fought to retain three libraries in the region but failed to retain another four closed by Moray Council have said that budget figures revealed this week prove there was never a need to cut the service.
Councillors met on Tuesday to unanimously agree just over £2million in additional budget cuts at a meeting where the council leader said the authority was in a “much better position than most of us would have forecast a year ago”.
Last year the council’s Independent and Tory administration announced the closure of seven libraries, sparking a furious public backlash with the formation of the ‘Save our Libraries Moray’ campaign that launched into the first stages of legal action to force a change of heart.
Moray Council insisted that the Library closures were necessary in the face of £30million in cuts required over three years. However, when met with compelling legal arguments they eventually backed down – but only insofar as retaining three of the under-threat libraries while pressing on with closing four others.
Throughout the campaign administration councillors pointed at Scottish Government funding to Councils being the reason why Libraries had to close – but after learning that the funding reduction from the Scottish Government to Moray was actually £5million less than had been anticipated campaigners are insisting that the issue should be revisited.
Sandra Ross, a leading member of the Save our Libraries Moray campaign who fought to retain the library in Rothes said: “I think the council can put their minds together and reopen the library here.”
A spokesman for the campaigners added: “It was decided not to proceed with legal action when advice made it clear that the grounds under which we were raising that action were reduced after we forced the Council to retain Dufftown, Burghead and Cullen libraries.
“However, the campaign to retain library services in Rothes, Hopeman, Findochty and Portknockie continues as all along we have insisted they did not need to close.
“The Council administration said throughout that they had to close some libraries and yet the council leader now boasts that actually almost £3million that was tagged to be drawn from reserves did not actually need to be used.
“In addition we find that the reduction in funding from the Scottish Government was never as bad as they claimed either – to the tune of £5million.
“Library users in Rothes, Hopeman, Findochty and Portknockie now have every right to ask just why their Libraries had to be closed at all.”