CONTROVERSIAL moves to hand over 21 libraries across North Yorkshire to volunteers are on target, councillors have been told.

The scheme is designed to help save £1.5 million towards the County Council’s target of cutting budgets by £167 million by 2020. The aim is to make the majority of smaller libraries community managed, with many existing library staff facing losing their jobs by April 2017.

A network of staff will be retained to support the new volunteer libraries.

One group of libraries in Colburn, Catterick and Richmond are looking at being run as a joint trust. Other libraries including Bedale, Thirsk and Stokesley are setting up individual management groups to push forward the community libraries.

Cllr Chris Metcalfe, executive member for libraries, told the Executive committee the authority had taken a dynamic approach.

"It is a positive journey and we are making good progress, we are on track," he said. "There has been a huge amount of activity, everything is moving in the right direction although we are not saying there aren’t going to be further issues.

“The bulk of the work between now and September will be to ensure these organisation can take on the work we are asking them to take on. The progress that has been made is positive because it is all about listening and being responsive.”

Julie Blaisdale, assistant director of libraries, said: "The next significant milestone and priority for the Stronger Communities team is to support new groups to submit their constitution to the Charity Commission to secure charitable status and to support any existing groups to ensure their charitable objects are fit for purpose.

“Following that, work will intensify on the completion of business plans with an aim to have the majority submitted by June or July and decisions made by the end of September.

"Once groups have had their business plans approved, work will focus on property and legal issues; volunteer recruitment; training; funding and fundraising and library operational matters in order for service level agreements to be signed off by January 2017."

In the autumn the council is set to launch a countywide marketing campaign appealing for volunteers.

"The campaign will highlight the benefits of volunteering to individuals as well as their communities. Volunteering is about learning new skills and interests, improving career opportunities, giving something back to your community and gaining satisfaction and achievement from being valued as well as making new friends in your community,” added Ms Blaisdale.