Public feedback shapes new library opening hours, as £200k streetlight savings offset reduced spending

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All South Gloucestershire libraries will remain open, with staffed hours focussed on when users need them the most, as decisions taken at Cabinet mean budget-balancing savings can be made elsewhere.

While staffed hours will be reduced, as part of the savings programme agreed when the council budget was set in February 2023, the initial savings target of £473,000 has been reduced to £273,000 as other efficiencies have been identified.

The Cabinet also agreed to a proposal to reduce the brightness of the districts streetlights to 25 per cent between the hours of 11pm and 6am, which will save the council £200,000 in energy costs, which will also reduce the authority’s carbon footprint, and free up money that can be used to offset savings that needed to be made in libraries.

Members heard that the brightness reduction has already been piloted and the difference was almost imperceptible to the naked eye. In other areas where similar measures have been put in place, there was no corresponding increase in crime. The council did say that anxiety about the risk of crime and personal safety was a key concern, however, and that steps would be taken to make sure residents could be assured of their safety.

Because of this step, the changes to libraries will be less significant. All of the existing libraries will remain open, and £60,000 will be saved by restructuring the management of the service, the book fund will be reduced by £25,000, instead of the originally proposed £50,000, and a further saving of £25,000 will be made by ending a third party enquiries service, which has not been well used.

The most significant changes will achieve the remaining savings of £163,000. They will be made by introducing half day opening of five staffed hours in Cadbury Heath, Patchway, Winterbourne, Filton, Hanham, Kingswood, Downend and Staple Hill libraries, however registered users will still be able to continue to access these libraries using the Open Access service.

New opening hours will also be consistent for all twelve libraries in South Gloucestershire. Opening times of 10am to 5pm will apply across the district when staff are on site. There will also be a three hours of staffed opening on Saturdays in all twelve libraries
The new opening hours have also been designed to support activities such as the popular Rhymetime and Lego clubs.

Earlier proposals had suggested that branches closed over lunchtime, however customer feedback confirmed that this was an important time where users often wanted the support of our trained staff, so Cadbury Heath, Patchway, Winterbourne, Filton, Hanham, Kingswood, Downend and Staple Hill libraries will remain open over lunchtime on the days they are staffed.

All of the changes take into account the feedback received from residents and service users who provided their views during the recent public consultation process, as well as a comprehensive needs analysis that looked at how libraries are currently used.

Changes to library opening hours will come into effect later this year, following consultation with staff. Changes to the brightness at which South Gloucestershire’s streetlights shine will be implemented over time, as the district continues to replace its 31,500 lights with more efficient LEDs. The new light levels will be fully rolled out in 2024/25 and 2025/26.

The decisions, supporting papers presented to Cabinet and revised opening times for all of the libraries are available on the Council website: https://council.southglos.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=134&MId=16499