Libraries consultation begins
Published: 9 December 2010
Councillors have given formal backing to proposals to reduce opening hours at most of the borough’s libraries so that ten of the eleven local branches can stay open.
A meeting of the full council last night (Wednesday) voted in favour of commencing a formal public consultation on reducing opening hours at the majority of local libraries and the closure of the borough's least busy branch at York Gardens in Battersea.
Last night's decision means that Wandsworth's five smaller neighbourhood libraries are now safeguarded. These include the branches at Northcote, Roehampton, Battersea Park, Earlsfield and Southfields.
A series of meetings will now be held at all 11 of the borough's libraries so that members of the public can have their questions on the consultation answered.
The first meeting will be at York Gardens library today (Thursday) between 2.30pm and 4.30pm. This meeting was advertised in the council's magazine BrightSide which was hand delivered to all 124,000 homes in the borough last week. A second meeting will take place at York Gardens on January 10 between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Details of the times and venues of all the other meetings are available at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/libraries.
Councillors took the decision to begin consultation on the proposals as they consider a range of money saving measures over the next four years. The coalition government's recent comprehensive spending review announced that all local authorities in England and Wales would see grants cut by 27 per cent over the next four years. This represents a £55m loss in income to Wandsworth between now and 2014.
York Gardens is the borough's least used small library for book lending and the most expensive to run in terms of net cost per visit. It is also located in an area well served by other nearby local libraries.
Battersea Library is little over half a mile away while Battersea Park, Northcote and Wandsworth Town libraries are all roughly one mile away. Analysis of library user patterns shows that 47 per cent of people who use York Gardens already use at least one other local library.
If the public consultation backs its closure and reduced opening times at nine of the ten remaining libraries in Wandsworth, the council will seek to cushion the loss of York Gardens on the local community - especially children.
Library chiefs are exploring a range of options with their colleagues in the Children's Services Department which could lead to some alternative services being provided at the neighbouring York Gardens one o'clock club and children's centre.
This could provide young people with IT facilities for homework and other school tasks, along with library outreach services for younger children.
The home delivery service will also operate a lending service for people unable to get to another nearby library because of mobility difficulties.
"This is a difficult decision to take but in the harsh economic climate we face it's the best way to protect our wider library network," explained cabinet member for environment and culture Sarah McDermott.
"If our proposals are accepted then it does mean that the borough's smaller neighbourhood libraries like Northcote, Earlsfield, Roehampton and Southfields will be safeguarded.
"Unfortunately, the council as a whole is having to look at major reductions in expenditure over the next four years and there will be no simple or easy choices in this process.
"The reduction in opening hours at ten branches and the closure of the eleventh one at York Gardens is, we believe, the best course of action for us because it causes the least disruption to overall library services.
"However this is why we want people to take part in the consultation process. We want to hear if people have alternative suggestions. There may be many other ideas out there that can help us achieve the savings we need and we would welcome people coming up with other solutions.
"If the public backs our plans following the consultation then families living close to York Gardens can rest assured that we will do all we can to cushion the blow and provide alternative services."
York Gardens issued the least number of books last year and also has he lowest number of active adult borrowers of any local library. It currently has the lowest number of visitors.
It is also the most expensive of all the borough's libraries to run in relation to its visitor numbers. It costs taxpayers £4.09 for every visitor, compared to £2.41 for the neighbourhood library at Roehampton and £2.34 for Battersea Park. The net cost for each book loan is £4.42 at York Gardens compared to £3.53 at Roehampton and £3.49 at Battersea Park.
Closure of York Gardens would save the council up to £219,000 a year. This option combined with reduced opening hours at other libraries, will save a total of £782,000
Officers have also identified an additional saving of £73,000 from the book purchasing and supplies and services budgets. Officers are also conducting a review of senior management staffing levels that could deliver additional savings.
The consultation will run until Sunday, February 6. Comments and suggestions will need to be submitted by this date. To find out more visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/libraries. Comments and suggestions can be submitted online or by completing the special consultation document available at all the borough's libraries.
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