Swingeing library cuts mooted in North East

Swingeing library cuts mooted in North East

Three local authorities in the North East – Gateshead, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough - are considering heavy library service cuts as they look at ways to save money in coming years.

Meanwhile libraries in Bristol are also set to face the axe.

Gateshead has already been through one round of cuts, which saw five libraries handed over to volunteers in January 2013. Now, the council is considering further cuts, which could ultimately end with eight of the council's 13 libraries closed.

Seven options are being presented to the public as part of a consultation, with the option to keep only five libraries saving £400,000 from the £3.2m budget, while cutting the equivalent of 13 full time jobs. Other options could see the community-run library service expanded.

Gateshead Council's service director for culture, communities and volunteering, Lindsay Murray, said: "The Council is undertaking a review of its library service to ensure that it is fit for the future and meets the changing needs of Gateshead residents and changes in technology. Gateshead Council has a funding gap of £46 million over the next two years – this review aims to help us design a service that can withstand future financial pressures."

Hartlepool is also launching a six month review into the service, which will consider slashing opening hours and making branches share facilities.

In Middlesbrough, the mayor, Ray Mallon, has announced £14m in proposed cuts for the council's budget across 2015 and 2016, including halving the library service's book buying fund, leaving it with only £100,000. The money spent on events at libraries would also be slashed.

Bristol is also facing the axe, with a consultation into the service expected to launch next week, with the aim of saving £1.1m from the service by April 2016. Head of libraries Kate Murray said in a report: "We currently have 28 libraries. It is possible that this saving may impact on the number of libraries, number of staff, available stock and services." The library service employs 250 people, with the report stating that all staff may be affected.