Last week's cabinet decision to withdraw council funding to five Southampton libraries, including Cobbett and Burgess Road branches, has won a reprieve – although probably only a brief one – because it's been 'called in' for further scrutiny.
• Libraries: Council accused of 'political point scoring'
• Video: Funding withdrawn for Cobbett & four other Southampton libraries from April 2016
The chair of the council's overview and management committee, Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry (Con), says he's 'called in' the decision made by cabinet last week, thereby halting the decision and bringing it back to his committee for further discussion – from 5.30pm on Thursday, September 10.
“The reason we called it in is, one, because we believe it's the wrong thing to do, and two, because there has been a premise that actually libraries won't shut, even when council's withdrawn funding, because there are providers in the background. But nobody knows anything about these providers,” Cllr Fizhenry told bitternepark.info.
“We want to be sure that that is actually viable and not being used as a smokescreen.”
At exactly what point the Labour group can reveal the identity of parties they say have expressed an interest in running threatened libraries remains unclear – particularly given that the decision has technically now been halted.
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But Cllr Fizhenry said one purpose of the scrutiny meeting was to find out who these people are and what credibility they've got to deliver. And he said he also wanted to know how much exploration's been done with Hampshire and other local authorities around the area about working together on running libraries.
“We don't want to be in a position where everyone stands behind a cloud of darkness,” he said.
Following the scrutiny meeting further recommendations are likely to go back to the next cabinet meeting, scheduled for September 15, where Labour cabinet members can accept or reject them.
It's thought the decision can't go back to a full council meeting, as scrutiny and others have previously urged, because of the amounts of money involved.
Those 'Groundhog Day' council meetings in September
Held in public at Civic Centre
Overview & Scrutiny Committee – Thursday, Sept 10, 5.30pm