Savings agreed in last year’s budget include reductions in spending on the district’s library services. A consultation has now launched to ask for residents’ views on how they might be implemented to minimise the impact on users and maintain the widest possible service.
The budget requires an annual saving of £473,000 in spending on libraries, as costs continue to rise and government funding continues to fall in real terms. Crucially, none of the options include the closure of any South Gloucestershire libraries, but invite local people to suggest where changes to opening hours, for example, would have the least and most impact.
All of the options presented in the consultation will have an impact of the way libraries in South Gloucestershire operate and this process is to understand how the service can be adapted to meet the financial needs of the council and the needs of library users.
The largest cost in running the library service is staff, so reductions to staffed opening hours, which is considered the only realistic way of achieving the savings, will have an impact. It is therefore important that we hear from both library users and staff through this consultation.
Based on feedback from the public and staff, and making more use of Open Access technology (which allows library users over the age of 16 and those who are younger and accompanied by an adult to use the library when there are no staff on duty), the council wants to develop opening hours that meet the needs of users.
As the consultation describes, savings will also be achieved by reducing back-office and management costs of the service and stopping some of the least-used community collection services.
The proposals in the consultation have been developed by analysing when each of the libraries are currently used. To minimise the impact of reduced staffed hours, those staff would be prioritised to cover the locations and times when libraries are most well used. It is also proposed that libraries are staffed in the key after-school periods, when so many schoolchildren visit their local library.
South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for library services, Councillor Leigh Ingham, said: “The decision to reduce library spending was taken as part of the last budget. Since that time all options have been considered to find ways to do this in a way that would minimise the impact on this much-loved service.
“This consultation is important because we want to hear from local people about how we can best deploy our staff to protect the in-person services as far as possible, as well as identifying any barriers to encouraging more people to use Open Access to borrow books or use our libraries to work and study, for example.
“We recognise the hugely positive impact libraries have for users. We don’t want to reduce funding to this service by a penny, but we are forced to balance our budget for the future and to bring forward options that will enable as many people as possible to be able to access a district-wide library service.”
Overall, in order to meet the savings target, the proposals would reduce staffed library opening hours from 351 to 285, a reduction of 19 per cent, with more hours covered by Open Access. They also include:
- Removing staffed access over lunch time in eight of the 12 libraries: Cadbury Heath, Downend, Filton, Hanham, Kingswood, Patchway, Staple Hill, Winterbourne
- Staffed hours ending in all libraries at 5.00pm
- A further one day reduction in staffed access at three libraries: Cadbury Heath, Patchway and Winterbourne.
For more information and to take part in the consultation, please visit the website at: www.southglos.gov.uk/librarysavings-consultation