Cuts to Southampton libraries; Rotherham closures averted

Cuts to Southampton libraries; Rotherham closures averted

Southampton city council will be cutting library staff and opening hours if it successfully passes its proposed budget for 2013/14. However in Rotherham, library groups have been cheered by the council’s decision to close only one of their 16 libraries, following an extensive public consultation.

Southampton is looking to save £20m, with at least £300,000 coming from their library budget. £50,000 will be cut from their book stock budget, while opening hours for some branches will be cut by as much as half and some mobile library services will be axed completely. Alongside the 120 hours a week being cut, 18 jobs could also be lost.

Council leisure boss Cllr Warwick Payne told the Southern Daily Echo: “Given the funding gap of more than £20m the council basically has two options on the table. The first is to reduce library opening hours across the city and this means that the burden is shared as equally as it can be.The alternative is to select several libraries to close completely so that libraries elsewhere maintain their current level of service. I was not happy with the scenario where whole communities could be deprived of their library service.”

But campaigners are already battling against the plans. Kevin Lancashire, Friends of Cobbett Road Library chairman, said: “This is closure by stealth. The impact will be devastating because people do not just use the library for books. There are 23 community groups meeting here which will not be able to continue with what is proposed.”

However in Rotherham only one of 16 libraries is to go after proposals from the public led to a number of changes in the council’s plans, which were approved by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council last week.

Seven libraries will see a small reduction in hours, but five will see their hours increase. Thurcroft Community Library will remain open throughout the year, rather than just during school term times as originally suggested.