Liverpool, Glamorgan and Islington face library cuts

Liverpool, Glamorgan and Islington face library cuts

More than half of Liverpool's libraries are at risk of closure as the city council looks to make savings on its budget.

The authority, which is hoping to make £157m of savings by 2016/17, believes it can save £2.5m by passing 11 of its 19 libraries to volunteer groups. If groups do not come forward to run the service, they could face closure. The plan is more extreme than similar proposals announced last year, with the council looking to make even deeper cuts.

In a report set to go before councillors
ahead of a public consultation, it said the city's library service would continue to "provide a comprehensive and efficient, vibrant and sustainable library service offer to the people of Liverpool".

Children's author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons condemned the moves. He said in an open letter signed by others including CILIP president Barbara Band: "The 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act enshrines the need for a ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ service. We do not believe eleven libraries across a city the size of Liverpool constitutes such a service. The proposal would be a blow to the culture of reading in the city and could impact on the city’s long term social and economic wellbeing."

The news comes in the same week that the Vale of Glamorgan announced its own potential cuts.

Proposals being looked at include making five of the Vale's libraries, at St Athan, Sully, Wenvoe, Rhoose and Dinas Powys community managed or supported. Aside from Dinas Powys, all the libraries are currently open part time.

The consultation also lays out plans to create "Friends Groups" for the four full-time libraries at Barry, Penarth, Cowbridge and Llantwit Major, with the aim to "increase opportunities for the library service to be further embraced by the community, but also to raise funding and apply for external grants."

The council is trying to save £21m in the next three years, with £500,000 to come from the cost of running libraries.

Other changes will come into effect immediately, including reducing the book fund from £220,000 to £195,000, while library opening hours are also cut.

Vale council leader Neil Moore is quoted on Wales Online as saying: "The strategy seeks to strike a balance between providing a solution to the requirement for the library service to reduce costs and having the service evolve and remain a relevant and vibrant community resource… I am confident that in partnership with our communities the outcome of the review will deliver the best possible service within the resources available from the council and community."

In London, the Islington Gazette has reported that Islington Council could axe more than half of the libraries in the borough. Documents seen by the paper show council directors proposing the closure of five libraries in an attempt to meet budget cuts of £95m in the next four years, on top of £112m of cuts since 2010.

Islington Council's executive member for finance Andy Hill said that the document had not yet been presented to politicians at the council, and that more proposals would be announced in due course.