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Calls To Create Local Trust For Wrexham Libraries

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Feb 11th, 2015.

Calls for Wrexham Council to consider creating a Trust to manage local libraries were made in yesterdays Executive Board meeting, with concerns raised over the impact of transferring the facilities to a South Wales Trust.

Members of the Executive Board yesterday voted in favour of beginning negotiations ‘on the transfer of the management and operation of libraries and community resource centres to an existing external charitable trust’, with a promise that full costings, including a home grown trust option will be presented when it returns to the Board.

At present there are 10 libraries and five community resource centres run by Wrexham Council. However in light of the ongoing budget cuts, it was last year recommended that ‘a review of alternative methods for the provision of library and cultural services to provide an alternative method of delivery by April 2015’ was looked into.

Speaking yesterday Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships and Collaboration, Councillor Hugh Jones said: “The first thing and the most important thing is to put in context and be clear what this report is doing. Since 2011 across the UK, 324 libraries have closed; 29 in Wales and we have seen in Wrexham a number being transferred to a Community Trust.

“What we have been doing form the beginning is seeking to protect the service in Wrexham. This is not transferring our libraries Blaenau Gwent or Merthyr Tydfil, the statutory control and responsibility remains in Wrexham.

“We are seeking to join an existing trust and in partnership to enable us to protect the library service across the county. The request is to seek to negotiate, and if it is successful we will carry it out. We are not proposing to transfer the Library Trusts in Wrexham anywhere else. The Trust will be a Trust in which we are a member, it is very important we understand the context.”

However concerns were raised over the length of time the Life Leisure Trust (Blaenau Gwent) and Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust had been established – with the Blaenau Gwent Trust being in operation since October 2014 and the Merthyr Trust being active from this month.

Councillor Carole O’Toole, said: “I am concerned that the Trusts we look at do not have a long history, I wonder how many other partners have been considered.

“I have a number of concerns about the route being proposed. Arguing for greater consideration, given to greater options that would offer Wrexham a greater say in what is going on in the future.”

Cllr O’Toole also spoke of the distance between Wrexham and the South Wales Trusts and how much of a say the town would have in the overall decision making.

Councillor Malcolm King said: “I have no problem transferring to a Trust, we have learnt a number of lessons with experiences in Gresford which is a flourishing community organisation.

“From the experience in Gresford and other places, the main saving is you need to engage with volunteers to help deliver services. I think we need to learn from that and don’t think this proposal learns anything from this.

“The only way you will engage volunteers is for them to see their own communities, you won’t do that if they perceive it being run by Merthyr. We are capable of forming our own, I don’t believe it would take seven months – people can achieve things in much less time. I do believe that is the way we should go, this is not what Wrexham wants, or what it needs or deserves.”

Calls were also made for Wrexham Council to look into establishing its own community trust, with reference made to the success of the Splash Magic Trust and Gresford Library.

Councillor Bob Dutton said: “My mantra is services for Wrexham people. We must emphasise time and time again that Wrexham can run its own services.

“Overall I think the situation is not good, surely we should be exploring the details of a trust for our libraries. The two trusts we are looking at have not got a track record. We need for a Wrexham Trust for Wrexham libraries.

“I understand the costing involved, but could use the costs to develop a trust for Wrexham needs for Wrexham libraries.”

Councillor Phil Wynn echoed the proposal to create a Wrexham based Trust, adding: “I am born and bred in Wrexham and will perceive it to be capital of North Wales and think we should stand alone as a local authority. I feel if we follow recommendations, we will be short changing the aspirations by saying we are unable to finance our own Library Trust.”

However the meeting was told there was ‘no appetite’ for establishing a Community Trust for all of Wrexham’s libraries, with the Lead Member telling the Board that ‘difficult decisions’ need to take place.

Cllr Jones said: “You have asked for due an urgent consideration to other options and Trusts. The original report was brought to the Executive Board in April 2014 and we decided that going down direction the Trust route would be the way forward.

“For the the past 12 months we have actively and pro actively searched for other partners and Trusts; we had discussions with Glyndwr University, Coleg Cambria and six neighbouring authorities of North Wales.

“If we were to start one ourselves we would be a brand new Trust and there would be a risky element. We have looked at setting one up, it would take seven months to bring to fruition, assuming we were to get the right calibre of trustees.”

Cllr Jones added: “It is important and I understand the passion members have shown here today and it is important. The reason we are bringing it forward is to ring fence and protect the libraries. We are going to have to make some difficult decisions, we are not committing to anything in this report other than a negotiation.”

An amendment put forward for the ‘urgent consideration to other options and Trusts’ was rejected by Councillors, with seven members voting in favour to begin negotiations with the proposed Trusts in South Wales.

The meeting was told that the costings of the transfer to the Community Trusts will be presented at next meeting’s Executive Board – with details of the cost on setting up a Wrexham based trust also to be provided.

A full copy of yesterday’s meeting report can be viewed here.

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