South Gloucestershire Council has opened a public consultation on proposed changes to its library service which could see opening hours at main libraries (such as Bradley Stoke and Patchway) cut by an average of eight hours per week and smaller branches (such as Filton) reduced to opening on just two days a week or being closed altogether.
As part of its agreed Savings Programme running until 2019/20, the council needs to save £640,000 from the budget for the service and has proposed options that involve reducing library opening hours, closing Chipping Sodbury Library and ending the mobile library service.
It is also suggested that external funding and volunteers could be used to minimise the impact of reduced staffing and opening hours.
The 12-week consultation process began on 22nd February, but the council has stated that no service changes will take effect until October 2017.
A council spokesperson said:
“The council’s aim is to work with community-based partners to ensure South Gloucestershire library services are sustainable for the long term, despite reduced funding from government. It is hoped that local groups, individuals and potentially town and parish councils will be able to make a valuable contribution to maintain library opening hours and support existing paid staff.”
Chair of the Communities Committee, Cllr Heather Goddard, said:
“We appreciate that our libraries are a very valuable resource for many residents and that the services people use, and the support they receive from our dedicated staff, extend far beyond borrowing books.”
“In order to preserve our libraries in a sustainable way, we do have to look at changing the way we deliver the service; however, before we make any decisions, we want to hear the views of the community.”
“The proposals in the consultation are really a starting point. We fully expect that we will find common cause with residents, community groups and our colleagues in town and parish councils in looking for ways we can continue to deliver library services to people together.”
Information about the consultation, which runs until 13th May, is available from local libraries, online at www.southglos.gov.uk/librarychanges or by phoning 01454 868154.
• A drop-in session offering the chance to talk to council officers about the future of library services is being held at Bradley Stoke Library on Saturday 12th March between 10.30am and 1pm.
MP points finger at high-earning officials
Local MP Jack Lopresti has pledged to fight cuts to library services proposed by members of his own party on Conservative-controlled South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), saying they should instead look at improving “back office efficiencies”, implying that some top-ranking council officials are overpaid.
Mr Lopresti commented:
“I am very disappointed that SCG is planning a drastic and highly damaging cut to our library services. Local taxpayers are paying more for the Chief Executive, who earns £155,724 a year, than they do for the Prime Minister and that three other officials at SGC also earn well over £100,000 a year. This is not the best use of taxpayers’ money. I urge the council to ensure that back office efficiencies are made in preference to reducing front line services.”
“Fortunately, the council has to consult on what changes are made to library services. This is the perfect opportunity for residents to have their say. Libraries have become important community hubs in recent years, with the range of services provided expanding well beyond the lending of books. They help promote literacy and prevent social isolation for many people. Every effort must be made to prevent the services they provide being damaged.”
“I am very pleased that library users groups are gearing up to oppose any reduction to hours, and I would encourage everyone to contribute to the consultation. I will be meeting some of these groups very soon, and anyone who wants me to pass their views on to the council is welcome to get in touch with me on 01454 617783, or via firstname.lastname@example.org”
The above articles originally appeared in the March 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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