THE SITUATION facing Hambleton’s libraries always looked unfair. While North Yorkshire’s other community libraries had been given assurances they would be fully exempted from business rates, volunteers who came forward to save libraries from closure in Hambleton had received no such confirmation.

Instead, they faced opening on April 1 with bills to pay and no regular income established.

It was a situation that received much local criticism – including in this column.

But now the council accused of jeopardising the future of the new community libraries has handed them a life line.

Hambleton District Council leader Mark Robson announced this week the local authority would be handing over a £5,000 grant to each of the volunteer groups set up to run the libraries.

The unexpected windfall is just the kind of support the libraries needed – Bedale library anticipates it will cover their business rates for five years. Cllr Robson went even further and said the grant will be rewarded regardless of the council’s decision on whether it charges the libraries 20 per cent business rates.

We know it’s difficult times for council finances and there are tough decisions to be made at every turn – it’s how libraries ended up without paid staff in the first place - so it’s good the importance of libraries have been recognised.

It’s a rare thing in this era of globalisation to find a project that isn’t purely about profits - they’re one of the few ventures that are about community and learning and for that reason it’s only right that councils are doing everything they can to keep them alive.