Council plans for library cash cuts unveiled

PUBLISHED: 07:53 15 January 2012

An academy trust will be hosting a range of courses to help adults find employment.

An academy trust will be hosting a range of courses to help adults find employment.

Archant

JOB losses and reduced opening hours at libraries will help North Somerset Council cut costs, it was announced this week.

Several community libraries will be open up to eight hours less a week, while Banwell will see its facility close, as recommended in 2009.

Despite the gloomy outlook, councillor Felicity Baker, executive member for libraries, said the changes were ‘a blessing in disguise’, comparing the move to the Grand Pier fire in 2008 and the ‘wonderful’ new attraction Weston now boasts.

Her comments came this week ahead of the council launching a public feedback review of the changes on Monday.

The council is cutting £347,000 from its library service budget over the next three years. The equivalent of 11 full-time positions among 115 staff will be culled.

Mandy Bishop, head of community and consumer services for the council, said the aim is to make services more efficient rather than to cut them entirely and the main cost-cutting would be through reducing hours for paid staff.

She said: “I would hope the number of compulsory redundancies would be minimal, if any at all.”

Libraries in Yatton, Winscombe, Worle and at the Healthy Living Centre will all have their weekly opening hours shortened.

But Weston and the Campus libraries will have their opening hours extended and will both be open on a Saturday and Sunday.

Cllr Baker said the emphasis of the review was on maintaining services rather than cutting them.

She said: “I actually believe all the communities around North Somerset will have a better service.

“Although we face severe financial pressures, our proposals seek to keep services and not to close libraries as other councils have proposed.

“We want to continue to provide library services to communities that currently get them. For us to do this we are proposing some changes to opening hours and different ways of working, but this is better than closing libraries completely.”

She said the installation of self-service machines would continue across the district and allow paid staff the opportunity to interact with visitors more.

And she called on volunteers to help out at local libraries which could see opening hours extended in the future.

Congresbury library has recently recruited 20 volunteers to help its library stay open and parish clerk Jo Duffy said the system had worked well.

Weston’s library will soon relocate to the town hall, while its former base in the Boulevard saw its future safeguarded when it was listed by the Government.

From Monday detailed plans and feedback forms are available from libraries. Opinions can also be emailed to libraryreview2012@n-somerset.gov.uk or online at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/libraryreview2012 - the results will be published in April ahead of the changes being introduced in September.

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