A LABOUR-LED council is facing backlash after announcing a series of cuts which would leave the local authority with the “worst public library provision in Scotland”.

South Lanarkshire Council is currently consulting on the closure of a number of public facilities as it struggles to balance its budget.

However it appears that the brunt of the cuts may fall upon the region’s libraries, with up to seven facing potential closure.

They include Forth Library, Blantyre Library, Hillhouse Library, Bothwell Library, Greenhills Library, Halfway Library and Cambuslang Library.

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The CEO of the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), Pamela Tulloch, has written to council leader Joe Fagan (below) to warn that if the cuts go ahead it would leave the area with the “worst public library provision in Scotland”.

Tulloch also criticised the council’s “huge incompetence” and “bizarre rationale”.

The National: Councillor Joe Fagan (Image: NQ)

The leader of the SNP group at South Lanarkshire Council, councillor Maureen Chambers, said there was “no evidence” to support the closure of so many libraries.

“SLIC’s conclusions about the state of library services in South Lanarkshire could not be clearer, and they pull no punches in putting the ball firmly in the administration’s court to sort this mess out,” she said.

“Councillor Fagan is the architect of this decline – when he leaked confidential information for political gain, for which he was sanctioned by the Standards Commission, work on looking at the future of libraries and developing a long-term strategy, ground to a halt.

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“Instead, the administration continue to hand over vast sums of money to the Leisure Trust and ignore what SLIC have described as ‘alarm bells’ about how that service is being managed under a business model that is ‘not fit for purpose’.

“South Lanarkshire is the only local authority in Scotland facing cuts to library services this year and it is now absolutely clear there is no evidence to support that decision.

“The council leader and his coalition partners can no longer ignore their statutory duties, the expressed priorities of the public and the needs of our communities.”

The council said that a response had been sent to the SLIC chief executive by Fagan, which pointed out a number of errors in their letter.

Executive director of community and enterprise resources, David Booth, added:

“The challenging financial landscape being faced by all Scottish local authorities has forced the Council to make a number of very difficult decisions in order to bridge a budget gap of more than £20 million in the current financial year alone.

"That is on top of many years in which funding for the council has not risen in line with inflation and other costs, and further difficult decisions will need to be made by this and all Scottish councils in the years to come. We note other local authorities have already had to close some libraries in previous years.

“As part of the council’s budget agreed for 2024-25 arrangements were put in place for to work with local communities on ways to mitigate the closure of any libraries that South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture require to withdraw from.

"We are pleased to confirm that while these discussions continue all libraries will remain open for at least three months thanks to the £1m Community Fightback Fund that was agreed as part of the council’s budget.

“Moreover, a Future Libraries Fund was also agreed, and this and other funding will be targeted at reprovisioning some services in those areas where SLLC will have to withdraw from libraries.

"We and SLLC will continue to work with local communities to develop reprovisioning options that will be best for their areas.”