THE NEXT phase of proposals for future library services in Reading will be considered at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee on February 19th.
Library services are delivered from seven branches in Reading. Unlike many local authority areas where libraries have been permanently shut due to budget pressures, all seven libraries in Reading would remain open under the latest proposals.
Opening hours would, however, be reduced in six of the seven branches to contribute to an estimated saving of £217,000.
Reading Borough Council is one of many local authorities with little option but to continue to make difficult budget decisions in order to balance the budget, which it has to by law.
The cost of caring for and protecting the most vulnerable adults and children in Reading is expected to rise by more than £10 million next year, but very little new funding has been provided by Government in 2018/19 to cope with the rising demand. This means services like libraries face cuts.
Government funding for Reading will have been cut from nearly £58 million between 2010 and 2020, leaving the Council with a Government grant of under £2 million. This may be removed entirely by 2020.
The full library savings proposals will be considered at Policy Committee on Monday 19th February :
The latest proposals include the following reductions in opening hours:
- Central: 46 hours to 36 hours per week
- Caversham: 35 hours to 27 hours per week
- Battle and Tilehurst: 27 hours to 22 hours per week
- Palmer Park: 21 to 15 hours per week
- Whitley: 21 to 18 hours per week.
As well as reduced opening hours, the proposals include allowing external organisations to move in and share space at both Tilehurst Library and Battle Library (once this has been extended this year), with a subsequent reduction in staff numbers. Other proposals include a further reduction in the library service’s stock fund and contract renegotiations.
If agreed at Policy Committee on February 19th, a detailed public consultation will follow on the changes at https://consult.reading.gov.uk
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture and Sport, said:
“These are the second set of major savings to library services in Reading in two years, but unlike many local authorities’ areas, we are not proposing to shut any of the seven branches.
“We know that people who use libraries continue to value them. Our approach is to keep all branches open by making the best possible use of limited resources. As well as the obvious reduction in opening hours, the proposals include making better use of space by allowing external organisations or community groups to use Battle or Tilehurst.
“None of these decisions are easy but the reality is that for as long as the Government does not properly fund services like adults’ and children’s social care, it is services like libraries which will face the brunt of the cuts. That is the picture across the whole country.”
In 2016 the Council consulted on changes to the library service. Many of these changes were introduced from 2017.
When considering how to find the savings needed, the most common suggestions from the public were: reducing opening hours; asking for donations for participating in library activities and sharing space with other services or partner organisations.
A further review of library services is just one of many areas the Council is having to consider to identify savings in the face of severe and unprecedented Government cuts in funding, and increased demands on Council services.
Reading Borough Council continues to face the challenge of the most difficult budget position in its history. Demand for key Council services – like caring for vulnerable adults and children – is rising at a time of unprecedented and sustained cuts in funding for Local Government nationally.
Changes made in 2017 to Reading Library Service
As part of savings totalling £290,000, in 2017 Reading Libraries have:
· reduced opening hours by around 30% across the 7 libraries;
· introduced self-service issue and return kiosks;
· reduced staffing in the service establishment from 37 to around 28 full time equivalent;
· changed the library computer system to a better, cheaper alternative;
· increased the discount on books purchased from supplier;
· made in year savings of £60,000 have also been made through further efficiencies;
· leased part of Central library to an outside organisation for a rental income.
For further information on the previous Library Service Reviews visit: www.reading.gov.uk/libraryreview