Council to consult on changes to library services
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The South Gloucestershire Council Communities Committee has approved plans to consult with the public, community groups and staff about potential changes to library services. The consultation process will begin in February, but no service changes would take effect until October 2017.
The council’s aim is to work with community-based partners to ensure South Gloucestershire library services are sustainable for the long term, despite reduced funding from government. It is hoped that local groups, individuals and potentially town and parish councils will be able to make a valuable contribution to maintain library opening hours and support existing paid staff.
The council needs to save £640,000 from the budget for the service and while the proposed new model involves reducing some library opening hours, closing Chipping Sodbury library and ending the Mobile Library service, it is anticipated that through discussions with the community over the next year, many of these reductions could be avoided.
Chair of the Communities Committee, Councillor Heather Goddard said: “We appreciate that our libraries are a very valuable resource for many residents and that the services people use, and the support they receive from our dedicated staff, extend far beyond borrowing books.
“In order to preserve our libraries in a sustainable way, we do have to look at changing the way we deliver the service, however, before we make any decisions, we want to hear the views of the community.
“The proposals in the consultation are really a starting point. We fully expect that we will find common cause with residents, community groups and our colleagues in town and parish councils in looking for ways we can continue to deliver library services to people together.”
The Committee also discussed plans for ‘Community Hubs’ and adopted a policy to develop a model of co-located services, including libraries, One Stop Shops (OSS) and potentially other public sector organisations in single, easy-to-access facilities, where possible.
Priority areas to look at delivering services in this way will be Kingswood, Patchway and Yate and the Committee also agreed that the council should develop plans to pilot new technological ways of providing access to services in Thornbury.
Cllr Goddard said: “Although there is reduced funding for the council to provide services, we know there is no reduction in demand. We know that residents like the idea of services being available together and so we will pursue the idea of Community Hubs as a way of potentially reducing some overhead costs, while not reducing peoples’ access to front-line assistance.”
The Committee also agreed to adopt a policy to keep the council’s existing public toilet facilities under review. South Gloucestershire maintain 15 public conveniences, at a cost of more than £175,000 each year. An assessment of the facilities condition was presented to councillors that indicated an additional maintenance bill for £75,000 was likely in the next five years.
Councillors agreed that council facilities could potentially close where suitable alternative facilities could be identified within half a mile.
The Library Service consultation process will begin on 22 February and run for 12 weeks. Details will be published online at www.southglos.gov.uk/consultation
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