Library plans are delayed after vote

PROPOSALS to improve North Shields Library have been put on hold after councillors said they had not been consulted.

Mayor Linda Arkley was looking for full support from North Tyneside Council over plans to borrow £2.7m to transform the Central Library in Northumberland Square into a new customer first centre.

But opposition councillors said more consultation was required, especially with ward members, as they voted at Tuesday’s full council meeting 34-20 in favour of deferring the plans to the next meeting on November 24.

The plans would see council services from nearby Unicorn House moved into the library to create a new joint service centre featuring state-of-the-art library facilities alongside council services, new lifts, better access and automated cash payment kiosks.

Work could have started as early as November 14, with the new facility opening in the summer of next year.

Mrs Arkley hit out at the delay, saying: “I’m extremely disappointed by this decision – it’s bad news for residents and local businesses.

“The current library is outdated and has not been up to standard for some time now.

“This investment would have transformed it into a new customer first centre, offering a modern library, community facilities and a full customer services suite.

“And it would have delivered significant regeneration benefits to North Shields town centre by increasing the number of visitors into the area.”

She added that the savings from moving staff into the proposed new centre would offset the initial £2.7m borrowed, and lead to further savings for the council.

But opposition councillors said they wanted more information on the proposals before agreeing to borrow the money.

Labour group leader Coun Jim Allan said: “We haven’t been briefed as a group and none of the ward councillors were briefed ahead of the report.

“We are not against the development of a joint service centre in North Shields, but we haven’t got enough information to make a sensible decision.

“We haven’t got a breakdown of what the £2.7m will deliver, how much it will cost the revenue account, and how long the borrowing is for.

“There is a great many questions that we haven’t had the courtesy to be told about.”

Coun Chris Croft, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “We voted to defer the decision until the local ward councillors had been informed.

“It’s important that ward members are briefed on what is happening in their wards.

“We’re not against the plans, it would be a fantastic asset for North Shields.”