The first phase of public consultation on potential changes to library services in South Gloucestershire has now closed. The process, which saw more than 3,000 feedback forms returned, also included public drop-in sessions as well as meetings with town and parish councils and other interested groups.
The volume of public feedback will take time to analyse, but the findings from the consultation will be presented to Councillors before they make a decision on the next stage of the review of library services in September.
The council will also now pursue further discussion with those who submitted expressions of interest in supporting the future of libraries in South Gloucestershire. The consultation process encouraged a range of new ideas to come forward and these will now be explored in detail so that updated plans can be presented in September.
Councillor Heather Goddard, Chair of the Communities Committee, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond. While we do need to save money, our principle objective as we look at our libraries is to deliver the best possible service that is sustainable for the future.
“The consultation process illustrated the depth of feeling and the range of individuals who use our libraries, as well as revealing a number of new ideas and innovative models of providing services in the future.
“Council officers will now take time over the coming months to talk to the various groups, including the town and parish councils and community organisations who expressed an interest in working together to explore new options for each of our libraries.”
A range of ideas were submitted to the consultation process, some that were specific to certain locations, as well as some concepts that might be applied to more than one library. In some cases, more than one group or organisation expressed interest in working in a particular area and the council will seek to bring interested parties together to find the best solutions that deliver the greatest service to the community.
Detailed discussions will now take place over the coming months, before a new paper is presented to Councillors in September. It is hoped that at this stage a strategic approach enabling the Council to deliver the maximum local library service possible, while still making the required savings, will be agreed. Consultation will then be carried out on updated plans for each library, building on that initial strategic approach.
The review of library services, which is required to achieve savings of £650,000 in annual spending, is part of the updated Council Savings Plan (CSP). Approved as part of the 2016/17 council budget in February, the new CSP sets out savings of an additional £22million from annual spending, beyond those already made, by 2019/20.
Members will also be briefed in September following the consultation on whether and how the council might adopt more widely a Community Hub model to deliver some services. The process received almost a hundred submissions from the public and interested groups, who gave their views about incorporating multiple services, and possibly services delivered by other public sector bodies, from single points of contact in local communities.
If adopted, the approach would be only be implemented following further consultation in the affected areas. The areas currently prioritised for looking at delivering services in this way are Kingswood, Patchway and Yate and the council is also considering developing plans to pilot new technological ways of providing access to some services in Thornbury.