Cuts planned for library service

WEST Sussex County Council plans to reduce by 20,000 the number of books it buys for the county’s libraries in an attempt to save £200,000.

And a report on library service savings up to 2014 which is due to go before the community services select committee today (Wednesday November 9) suggested that the council should ask people to donate books in the future.

Regarding the cuts, the report stated: “This could result in less choice in libraries, which may result in falling issues of books and other media and potentially, therefore, a reduction in customer satisfaction. The project is looking at a number of ways that the media fund could be enhanced by say, public donations of books or philanthropic giving.”

The report also stated that stopping library services to residential care homes and sheltered housing would save a further £75,500.

It added: “The county council would continue to offer, as part of its standard service, the ability for each care home to collect books from local libraries.”

In an attempt to increase income, an rise in fines, reservations fees and DVD/CD rentals via a half-yearly review is on the cards, while it is proposed that 11 full-time equivalent posts will be lost across the county as more self-service kiosks are introduced.

The proposals, which would see £650,000 saved from the library services budget, are part of the county council’s overall plan to save £79million over three years.

Lionel Barnard, deputy county council leader, who oversees libraries, said: “We are looking to reduce paid staff in smaller libraries and work with communities to find volunteers to offer support.

“For customers this is more realistic than expecting libraries to be run wholly by volunteers, which communities told us they didn’t like. We are still looking at the details of how things will work, but we have avoided any change to the opening hours.

“The entire Cabinet agreed that if the financial problems for the whole county were not so grave, they would not have wished to impose any of the options.

“It was challenging and impossible to achieve without affecting staff and services.”

Some £1million of library services had already been imposed In 2010/11, including six full-time equivalent job losses, changes to opening hours and cuts to the mobile library service.

Cllr Barnard insisted that he was “delighted” with the proposals, which would mean none of the county’s 36 libraries would close.

He said: “I am delighted to be able to say that none of the county’s 36 libraries will be closed under the new proposals, and the revised mobile library service will be left untouched.

“Originally we were working with just the smaller libraries to find alternative ways of delivering the service, but now it is clear the savings should be found from across the whole libraries network.

“You only need to look at the difficult decisions that have had to be made about adult social care, and the subsidy on buses, to realise how serious the financial situation is.

“However we now believe that further efficiencies in our waste management contracts will allow the money to be found.”

The impact on jobs caused by the proposals is currently being assessed, and some losses could be offset by unfilled vacancies. The community services select committee will consider the proposals after which Cllr Barnard will make his decision.