A POLITICAL row broke out after the Conservative-led South
Published on: 28 Feb 2016
OPENING hours at the three libraries in Emersons Green, Staple Hill and Downend could be severely reduced under cost-cutting proposals from South Gloucestershire Council.
This could mean each of the three popular centres being open for as little as two days a week from October next year.
But residents have already begun to campaign against the possible cuts, saying that the area is being disproportionately hit.
Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti has backed the opponents, describing the council’s proposed measures for South Gloucestershire’s 13 branch libraries as “drastic and highly damaging”.
The council is asking people for their views before making a decision on the library network. Its favoured option is to shut the Chipping Sodbury Library and the mobile library and reduce opening hours at all other sites, which it estimates would save £630,000 a year.
Library services cost £2.8 million a year to run and the council, like all local authorities, is under pressure to make savings.
Two other options would be a 19 per cent reduction in opening hours, which would save about £500,000 a year, or closure of all but five main libraries - Kingswood, Yate, Patchway, Thornbury and Bradley Stoke – saving about £1m a year. Further use of volunteers is also being explored.
The council says: “These are just three ideas for how the council could make the savings to library services and illustrates the tough choices that these funding reductions could have. These options are not set and we fully expect them to evolve as a result of this consultation and conversations with service users and local communities over the coming months.”
A number of online petitions have been launched, including for Emersons Green, Winterbourne and Hanham libraries.
The Emersons Green petition had attracted 465 signatures as the Voice went to print. It was started by Genevieve Ford, who wrote: “Emersons Green Library offers a wealth of essential and highly valued services to the local community. These are delivered by friendly, knowledgable and well trained staff...
“In the context of the parallel proposals for neighbouring libraries in Staple Hill and Downend, a vast swathe of South Gloucestershire will be left with entirely inadequate access to the vital services currently offered by all of the libraries in the vicinity.”
The council’s favoured plan would reduce the hours at Emersons Green from 38 to 18, at Downend from 41.5 to 18 and at Staple Hill from 34 to 18.
Staple Hill councillors Shirley Potts and Ian Boulton said it would be very damaging for the people of Staple Hill, which is a Priority Neighbourhood, if they were denied access to the library facilities, particularly use of IT equipment and associated training.
Users’ groups at all the libraries are gearing up to reflect concerns and come up with ideas.
Mr Lopresti said the council should be making back-office efficiencies rather than cutting frontline services.
He said: “ I am very disappointed that South Gloucestershire Council are planning a drastic and highly damaging cut to our library services. I am very pleased that library users groups are gearing up to oppose any reduction to hours, and I would encourage everyone to contribute to the consultation.”
Council leader Matthew Riddle commented: “We are eager to give communities greater input in our library services. There have been some amazing things done with libraries across the country, allowing services to be improved whilst also making a saving which can help us bolster other services.”
Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood, has met the council’s chief executive Amanda Deeks to raise concerns and to ask that the council draws up guidance for any local community groups or volunteers who may want to step in to keep libraries open.
To give your views, visit firstname.lastname@example.org