Campaigners protest over Herefordshire library cuts

Campaigners protest over Herefordshire library cuts

Library campaigners in Herefordshire have urged the council to abandon plans to slash funding and turn buildings over to volunteers.

Herefordshire County Council is currently consulting on its 2014/15 budget, which lays out cuts to library services of £700,000 and outlines the council's plans to increase volunteering in libraries.

Proposals made by the council earlier in the year included closing all but one of the county's libraries, but no decision was taken.

Its new consultation document said: "We will continue to reduce funding to libraries and museums and develop alternative service delivery models with the community and other partners… [We will] use a reduced resource to support and strengthen the role of communities to take on more responsibility and become more self-reliant. We will actively engage with our community organisations and support networks to develop community action, building on the existing strengths across the county."

Council leader Tony Johnson said: "We have less, so, even after efficiencies, we must do less."

The Herefordshire Library Support Group, which is made of of a number of separate users groups, has now written to all Herefordshire councillors, as well as local MPs Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin, urging them to reconsider before any budget is adopted in 2014.

In the letter, campaigners said: "Herefordshire Libraries Support Group is seriously concerned about the potential harm that will be done by the budget cuts to be announced in the New Year. Within the West Midlands, Herefordshire has the fewest number of libraries, but also the highest level of active borrowers. The Library Service has been praised for how well it engages with the population—especially children, older people, job seekers and people isolated within rural areas . . .  This Group is strongly of the opinion  that cuts have gone far enough and further cuts will be counter-productive generating high social costs and eliminating the possibilities of raising revenue."

The letter outlines a number of suggestions which have adopted by other authorities to make savings, such as co-locating libraries with other facilities such as tourist information offices, and working more closely with other authorities to benefit from economies of scale.

It also warns that the council is in danger of failing to meet its statutory duties in providing a "comprehensive and efficient" library service.