IT’S a fait accompli for the library services in Banagher, Daingean, and Kilcormac as their services will be cut from April 12, despite gallant efforts to have the service reduction postponed at yesterday’s meeting of Offaly County Council.
With councillors requesting to have the looming deadline postponed, County Manager Pat Gallagher advised them that the matter could be referred to the Strategy Policy Group for further discussion. However, he said that the revised opening hours will still be implemented next month.
“We are not in a position to change the deadline of April 12. It does merit consideration by the SPG. It would be worthwhile but I am not in a position to change the April 12 deadline.”
The County Manager pointed out that the staff had been advised of the amended service provisions in these libraries as well as current Council resources and budget.
He said that he was happy to have the SPG discuss the matter and deal with it within the terms of the current budgetary and staffing resources available to the council and accepted that “it wasn’t an easy situation to be in but it is the situation we are in.”
Yesterday (Monday, March 26), Cllr Ger Plunkett had put forward a motion that the Strategic Policy Group for county Libraries investigates their workings with a view to extending opening hours in rural libraries.
He believed that it was a “scandalous decision” by the council officials.
A lengthy discussion on the issue ensued with many county councillors very irate at the decision to cut the service provided in these libraries with some councillors making accusations that the library services in the larger towns were being prioritised over the rural areas. There was a majority of support amongst the councillors for Cllr Plunkett’s motion.
Cllr Sinead Moylan called on the Council officials to carry out a value for money audit on the library service while Cllr John Foley pleaded with the officials to reconsider the reduction of hours.
Calls were made for consideration to be given to whether the internship scheme could be used to prevent the library services from closing.
Cllr Nichola Hogan stressed that she would be anxious to find a solution to the situation. “We need to look at an alternative to keep library hours as they are,” she added.
Cllr Liam Quinn pointed out that these reductions will have a “huge impact” on the people in these areas.
Noting that many councillors were left “shell shocked” when the initial announcement was made, Cllr John Leahy also pleaded with the Director of Services to reconsider the decision.
Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick questioned why the Council was spending so much money on refurbishing the Tullamore library and not keeping the rural library services.
There was sharp criticism by several councillors that the matter was not referred to the SPG before the decision was taken by the Council Executive to cut the library services.
“The SPG should have been involved in the implications of the budget cuts in relation to the library services,” Cllr Plunkett fumed.
However, it was Cllr Connie Hanniffy was the most heated in her criticism of the decision. Describing it as a “high handed” decision, she was quick to point out there was no consultation with the SPG and it appeared that the full time libraries were being prioritised. “Let’s be fair on how library services are provided. I am sick of this.”