Councillors are to consider a report next week which proposes major changes to Bury’s library service.
It follows the first phase of consultations on a complete review of how the service can be provided against the need for the council to make significant budget cuts and the need to improve the service currently offered to local communities.
The proposals, to be presented to members of the cabinet on Wednesday (25 Jan), are to substantially reduce the number of library buildings while developing new ways to enhance the overall service.
There are two options put forward which, if approved, will then be used as the basis for a second round of public consultation. It is proposed that this would run from 30 January to 10 April, with a final report to be brought back to cabinet on 26 April. No decisions will be taken until then.
Councillor Sandra Walmsley, cabinet member for strategic housing and support services, said: “We have had to look at every aspect of the service to make sure that we can make the savings that are necessary while still meeting our legal duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.
“The current library service is not sustainable. Staff levels have reduced by 30% since the last review, meaning that libraries cannot fulfil their opening hours and are sometimes closed at short notice.
“Also, some of the library buildings are not in great condition and will need major investment in future years, money which we simply don’t have.
“In addition, the number of active members is reducing, and there are not enough staff to grow the service, develop new members or do face-to-face community work. We need to consider how we can enhance the increased demand in some services such as IT access. For all these reasons the future of the library service in its current format is a growing concern.”
The proposal is to create a ‘core’ team and a ‘community’ team, which would concentrate on developing digital services, information and learning, reader development and working in the community.
The aim is to provide at least one main library building in the north, central and southern parts of the borough.
As well as the ‘core and service-wide’ service, the two options for cabinet to consider are: 1) to retain the following library buildings: Bury (plus Archives), Ramsbottom, and Prestwich; or 2) to retain Bury (plus Archives), Ramsbottom, Prestwich and Radcliffe.
Under both options, 98% of Bury residents would be within 30 minutes’ reach of a library.
Cllr Walmsley said: “Keeping more buildings open would not be viable, because the costs involved would mean a dramatic reduction in the service-wide team, thereby watering down the quality of all library provision across the borough.”
She said the council was keen to work with residents to explore whether buildings could be kept open for community use. This may include community management of some buildings to include a library service and community activities/meeting place; management by other agencies, e.g. nurseries and playgroups; or establishment of a charitable trust to which some libraries are transferred.
She added: “The council remains fully committed to retaining a high quality library service, but there will need to be changes. Despite this, we will continue to provide a service that meets our legal duties and supports the aspirations of residents of all ages for development of reading skills for the youngest, lifelong learning and access to books and information.”
The full cabinet report and appendices can be read at: http://councildecisions.bury.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=126&MId=1925&Ver=4
Press release issued: 18 January 2017.