Revised proposals to transform local library services and achieve savings for the City Council are being recommended for approval by the authority’s Executive Board ( 17 January).
Initial plans involved among other things the closure of three libraries, with Aspley being turned into a distribution hub for the library service but closing to the public. Some savings have already been achieved through a staffing restructure in the libraries service. The decision to put forward the closure of the libraries was not one that was proposed lightly, but was due to pressure to balance the council budget from the Government’s austere economic measures. The laws around local government and the requirements made from the Tories for all councils around the country are not fit for purpose leading to a situation whereby the closure of the three libraries had to be considered. No Labour politician would ever want to bring such proposals forward, but the budget is an ongoing challenge and so it will remain until the Conservatives are removed from office.
The proposals now due to be considered by members of the Executive Board involve keeping all existing libraries open, with some shortened opening times across the library network, and retaining Aspley as a publicly accessible library, whilst fitting in it a stock distribution centre for Nottingham Performing Arts Library. Different libraries currently have different opening times and the proposal is to align them to an updated core, satisfying communities’ use. This proposal protects the library buildings if slightly altering opening times and delivers the required saving at the same time.
This is a response to strong feedback from residents against the closure proposals, coupled with emerging factors such as the integral role that libraries continue to perform during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, for example as warm hubs. The conditions of people living in our city and around the country have worsened significantly as a result of the Government’s inadequacy to bring inflation under control and to support public services at all levels over the past decade.
The report to Executive Board states: “The transformation principles and revised recommendations provides a positive response to the views and concerns raised by individuals and communities and the strong opposition to closures. The recommendations still enable the transformation to create a modern library service that remains relevant, whilst still responding to financial pressures facing the local authority and the specific delivery of the savings requirement.”
Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Planning, said: “Our ability to bring forward proposals to protect all three libraries constitutes a positive response to the needs of people in Nottingham including the most vulnerable in our communities. Their voices from the extensive consultation have been heard.
“No matter how much the Government threatens our public services we need to continue doing all we can to fight for them, and even though we still have to operate under a Conservative Government that has created a difficult financial environment – and we will still be asked to make disproportionate amounts of savings in the future – we still need to keep doing all we can to mitigate the impact to all our communities.”
The report to the Executive Board can be read here: Agenda for Executive Board on Tuesday, 17th January, 2023, 2.00 pm – Nottingham City Council