The government will provide funding to give wi-fi access to all public libraries across England, chanceller George Osborne revealed yesterday (18th March) is his pre-election budget speech.
The budget document said that £7.4m would be provided to fund wi-fi.
If the money is spread equally among the 151 library authorities in England, it would mean a £49,000 windfall for each to help develop digital access. According to figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) released in December last year, only 48% of libraries in England currently have wi-fi access.
Ciara Eastell, President, Society of Chief Librarians, said: "We are delighted that the 2015 Budget includes funding for wifi in public libraries. This is a priority, and SCL is committed to making sure libraries offer customers access to digital resources. Over the coming months, SCL will work with a range of partners to realise the potential of this investment to develop innovative services and partnerships that support libraries' contribution to skills development, creativity and enterprise in local communities."
Improving internet access and wi-fi availability was one of the key aims which William Sieghart identified in the Sieghart Report into public libraries last year.
"Libraries are already facilitating access to a wide range of government services including education, welfare reform, business and economic growth and health care and this will dramatically grow as more services go online," he said. Sieghart added that libraries were losing out to commercial businesses such as coffee shops, which offered wi-fi as standard.
Boosting digital access is also a key aim of the Leadership for Libraries task force, set up in the wake of Sieghart Report. The panel features Kathy Settle, director for digital policy and departmental engagement at the Government Digital Service.
Other announcements made by Chancellor George Osborne yesterday (18th March) include confirming that a 25% tax on profits of companies deliberately shifting their profits out of the UK in order to avoid paying corporation tax –otherwise known as the "Google Tax" - would come into effect next month. He also revealed corporation tax would be cut by 1% to 20% in April, as well as confirming a comprehensive review of business rates, which has been welcomed by The Booksellers Association.
Tim Godfray, c.e.o of the Booksellers Association, said: “Business rates are one of the key issues facing our members, so we are pleased to see that the coalition government accepts that the current business rates’ system, operating since 1988, needs fundamental reform. We very much welcome the coalition government’s reiteration today that it will carry out a wide ranging review to examine the structure of the current business rates’ system in England.”