A VILLAGER says a relaunched volunteer library in Flackwell Heath will never match up to a fully funded council-run service.

Malcolm Wiles, of Straight Bit, says volunteers will never achieve the competence and continuity provided by trained, professional staff and "standards and service will inevitably suffer greatly".

The Friends of Flackwell Heath Library has stepped in to run the facility as a ‘Big Society’ initiative, after the Conservative-controlled Buckinghamshire County Council slashed its budget for 14 small libraries by about £700,000.

The building, next to Carrington Junior School, will be leased from the council on a peppercorn rent, but the service will rely completely on volunteers for staffing.

The Friends group is staging an opening party this weekend.

Mr Wiles said: "No amount of flag-waving or spin alters the fact that BCC closed our professionally run library at the end of March...

"Public libraries have a long and distinguished history in this country, going back at least to the 17th century...It is sickening to witness our Tory-dominated government and council destroying this proud heritage at a stroke, and denying it to future generations.

"The chairman and vice-chairman of the unelected, self-appointed committee in your picture are both Tory councillors. Using this tawdry project they are desperate to try to cover up the damage that they and their friends have done."

He said the £33 billion being spent on the high speed rail project could have been spent on libraries instead.

Dave Johncock, chairman of The Friends of Flackwell Heath Library, said: "Many of us would agree with Mr Wiles that it would have been much better for all concerned had Bucks County Council not been forced to consider the possibility of closing the Flackwell Heath library in the first place.

"However, the country's current economic situation is such that all levels of government have been forced to reduce budgets and to consider other ways to deliver services....

"Perhaps the service delivered by volunteers will not quite match-up to that previously seen but the decision for many of us was quite simple – allow the library to close or to run it using volunteers.

"Many of our villagers chose the latter and willingly stepped into the breach.

"This shows just how great our community spirit is and demonstrates that people are prepared to give up their time for the benefit of others....In my mind, all the Friends of Flackwell Heath Library should be applauded not criticised.