Libraries and museums facing privatisation

LIBRARIES across the district and Harborough Museum could be privatised under plans being considered by County Hall.

Leicestershire County Council said on Monday it was considering options for its museums and libraries which include privatisation, sharing costs with other councils and transferring assets to trusts or charities.

Tory-run County Hall spends £7m a year on its 54 libraries and six mobile libraries and £3m on arts and heritage. The Harborough district has a museum in Harborough and libraries at Harborough, Lutterworth, Kibworth, Fleckney, Great Glen and Broughton Astley where a total of 25 full-time staff are employed. Seven staff are employed at the town’s museum with 14 full-time posts at Harborough Library and five at Lutterworth Library.

One of the options is “co-locating with other public services” which could be a possibility for Harborough as there are plans for Harborough Council - which houses the town’s museum and library - to share facilities with the health trust at St Luke’s Hospital in Harborough.

The news comes a fortnight after concerns were raised over the future of Harborough Museum when the district council said museum staff were at risk of cuts.

County Hall commissioned a report after the Government’s spending review in October and the council will make a decision next year. Options were put forward by consultants BOP Consulting and Shared Intelligence.

Cllr Blake Pain (Cons), county councillor for Harborough West, said: “The approaches offered will need a mechanism to make them work which is why the Big Society concept is so important to get right. One thing is certain, doing nothing is not an option.”

Cllr Sarah Hill (Lib Dem), county councillor for Harborough East, said: “Moving the museums into a trust could be beneficial as it gives them access to better funding. Each museum and library affected will need a solution in conjunction with local people, one central ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work.”