Lancashire County Council says the sale of the Garstang Road property will go ahead as planned, despite pleas from the council’s Tory opposition group.
The Conservative party had called in the decision, made on March 9 by the Council’s Deputy Leader Coun David Borrow, to accept an offer for the former library, which closed last year.
Tory group leader Coun Geoff Driver argued that as his party had pledged to reopen all of Lancashire’s recently closed libraries if it takes control of the council at the May elections the sale could cause the council unnecessary expense. He maintained if Labour won they could proceed with the sale after the May 4 elections.
The call in bid was considered at a scrutiny committee meeting last Friday. Press and public were excluded from the behind closed doors debate.
But the county council has confirmed the committee voted against the request for a call-in of the sale decision for both Fulwood and Barrowford libraries.
Labour County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said today: “The county council faces an unprecedented financial challenge so there is a real urgency to pressing ahead and making savings as soon as possible. We also owe it to those people who came forward with offers for the properties when they were initially put on the market.
He continued:“We will continue with the sales of the former libraries at Fulwood and Barrowford and with the disposal of other buildings identified as surplus in the Property Strategy, as and when they become available.”
Coun Driver condemned the decision as “shameful” and said: “This was a peevish decision by the scrutiny committee. The Conservatives have promised to re-open a library in Fulwood and not a single member of our political opponents could present a reasoned argument against delaying the sale; they were determined to sell the building even if that incurs additional expenditure for Lancashire County Council.”
Liberal Democrat group leader County Coun Bill Winlow, who chaired the scrutiny committee, said: “The Conservatives throughout the meeting were unable to explain just how they would actually reopen the libraries and make them function.”
He continued:“The difficulty now in reopening the libraries once they’ve been closed is getting all the stock back in place and we don’t have enough library staff to staff them.”
Coun Winlow claimed library closures had been caused by “chronic underfunding by central Government of Lancashire County Council over many years.”
Fulwood library closed at the end of September and offers had been invited in excess of £475,000. The property was marketed by Fulwood based HDAK consultants.