Fears for community hub after ‘£10k bill’

Wragby library EMN-151122-101633001
Wragby library EMN-151122-101633001
  • Wragby hub is an ‘important’ facility for the rural village

Lincolnshire County Council has been accused of “murdering” library services after a community hub surviving on a ‘shoestring’ claims it was slapped with a £10,000 business rates bill.

The bill was allegedly handed to Wragby Community Hub - and volunteers who run the facility say its future is now uncertain.

But the county council has denied the bill even exists.

Community hub secretary Barbara Bartlett says there is “no way” the hub can survive without becoming a charity - so it does not have to pay full business rates.

The hub, which shares a building with Wragby Fire Station, took over the village’s library services at the start of November after county council cutbacks.

And Ms Bartlett says that up until now rates have been paid by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue.

She said: “Lincolnshire County Council is getting away with murder here.

“By stealth, they’re reducing the library services on offer.

“I just think it’s unfair.

“We’re really on a shoestring.

“No one at any stage had talked about us paying business rates until now.

“We’re beginning to wonder whether they really want us to keep going.

“We’re trying to register as a charity to apply for an 80 to 100 per cent reduction.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen if we don’t get charity status.

“We won’t be able to continue.

“If we have to pay that charge, there’s no way we’ll be able to continue.”

Mrs Bartlett said an agent, acting on behalf of LCC, had contacted the community hub about the bill.

And Ms Bartlett has warned the closure of the hub would have a detrimental impact on the village.

She said: “As a rural area, its (the hub)important to prevent social isolation.

“There’s still a lot of people in the village that don’t have computers or get broadband, so they get it there.

“It’s well used.

“And we’ve run some very successful courses.”

Ms Bartlett said more people had recently shown interest in becoming volunteers.

This would mean the community hub could extend its opening hours.

The hub is currently open two days a week.

Ms Bartlett said: “We want to get more village activities.”

LCC county libraries manager Gary Porter said: “The library service used to contribute approximately £8,000 per year to the running costs of the building, which covered our share of the utility bills and business rates.

“But we have negotiated this down to £4,000 per year for the new group, which can be easily covered by the £5,167 grant they receive from the council each year.

“If they apply for charitable status, that figure could drop even further, as they’ll be able to claim rate relief.

“There is no reason why the hub cannot be run sustainably for the foreseeable 
future.”