COUNCIL bosses are pressing ahead with plans to axe staff at 21 libraries across North Yorkshire but are offering crucial support to help volunteers keep them open.

More than 17,000 people have protested about North Yorkshire County Council’s plans to cut over £1.6 million from the libraries budget.

The council says it has no choice but to make reductions in the face of cutbacks from the government which mean the authority has to find a total of £167 million in savings by 2020.

Originally the authority planned to withdraw staff totally from 21 libraries, creating community services run by volunteers with premises and books paid for by the county council.

There are already nine community libraries across the county - seven created after a previous round of spending cuts.

But the council says the consultation revealed most people felt that the new community managed libraries would need some dedicated staff if they were to succeed.

So now eight including Catterick, Colburn, Easingwold, Stokesley and Thirsk would get between 12 and 15 hours of support; others such as Bedale, Leyburn, Boroughbridge, Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside and Norton will have between five and seven hours support.

The larger town libraries including Northallerton and Richmond will lose 40 per cent of their staff, with smaller centres including Ripon, Pickering, Knaresborough and Whitby cut by 60 per cent. Volunteers will also be encouraged to help maintain these services.

Cllr Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library services, said: “We have listened very hard to what people have had to say and we have taken on board the fact people think community-led libraries would need some dedicated support to be successful.

“The current group of community libraries have gone from strength to strength, expanding way beyond book-lending to become key deliverers of services.

"Our community-managed libraries model has been highlighted by both the Arts Council and the Local Government Association as an example of best practice.

“We now want to make sure that many more community libraries can be successfully introduced in order to retain a much-cherished countywide library service.

"We cannot secure that service without communities stepping forward into the breach, but we also acknowledge that communities need some on-going dedicated support.”

The Home Library Service and a Supermobile service will continue for people who cannot get to libraries and local collections in pubs and village halls will also be supported.

The council’s Executive will consider the report on July 7. Information is on the council’s website,