Council to rethink library closures following resident objections

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Boyn Grove Library could be saved from potential closure – if the council accepts revised proposals for libraries across the borough.

The Royal Borough is reconsidering suggestions to close or reduce the opening hours of several libraries, following feedback from the public.

In February’s full meeting of the council, the borough’s draft budget for 2021-22 was approved, which included controversial recommendations for library ‘transformation’.

Having received more than a thousand responses from residents via a public consultation, the council will examine a revised library strategy next week.

On Tuesday, a communities overview and scrutiny’s panel will discuss the new recommendations.

The original proposals recommended closing certain libraries and further reducing the opening hours of others to provide a total of 217.5 opening hours per week.

Boyn Grove Library was among those that was earmarked for potential closure. It is now proposed that Boyn Grove should remain open for 13 hours per week.

The final recommendation is to keep all libraries open and deliver 314.5 opening hours a week in total, a reduction of 38.5 hours.

This could be further reduced if alternative provisions, such as a pop-up library, can be established at Holyport and Furze Platt – and if additional funding can be secured from partners or from hire of library spaces.

One suggestion is a home library service which will replace the mobile library vehicle, creating savings of £40,000 per year.

This will be supported by 50 volunteers committing to five hours per month.

A key finding of the recent consultation was that more residents arrive at a library on foot than by car and only four per cent use public transport.

The report suggests it will be difficult for those households without a vehicle, where income deprivation makes public transport unviable, to access the library.

The aim of the changes is to deliver savings for the council – and officers’ recommendations say that the revised library strategy will deliver savings of £292,000 in total between 2021-22 and 2022-23.

The new proposals have been shaped by conversations with partners and stakeholders which have potentially secured £60,500 in additional support.

These will be made up of reductions in rent, cleaning costs and funding for staffing.

By keeping the container library in one location, the council can save £55,000 per year on towing costs. The recommendation is to retain the container at Wraysbury.

The two locations where this could have the greatest impact are Holyport and Furze Platt. Instead, these two communities will be served by the proposed home library service.

The library service will also ‘work closely’ with residents from Boyn Grove to explore opportunities to gain revenue from hiring out the library space.

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