Cabinet approves strategy to spare Royal Borough libraries from closure

Shay Bottomley

Libraries in the Royal Borough which were faced with the prospect from closure were saved from being cut at Thursday night’s cabinet meeting.

Under the original proposals, four libraries were set to be closed, including Boyn Grove, with the remainder operating for a total of 217.5 hours per week.

However, following multiple campaigns and a public consultation, no libraries will be closed after the library transformation strategy was approved by cabinet.

Libraries in the Royal Borough will now be open for a total of 314.5 hours, an increase of 97 compared to initial proposals set out in the public consultation.

Presenting the report, Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton & Castle) said: “To ensure this recommendation was made with knowledge and strong data, the council commissioned an independent report from RedQuadrant.

“This comprehensive report showed how important the service is, and particularly highlighted Boyn Grove, Dedworth and Eton Wick, which informed the final recommendations.

“The report also compared the Royal Borough library service with other library authorities; it shows that we have a higher-than-average number of libraries per 100,000, as well as how well they are used.

“The cost of running the libraries measured per visit makes it one of the most effective, and generates almost, bar one, the most income.

“As CIPFA said, it demonstrates financial efficiency – the measures in this paper will improve this even further.”

Cllr Catharine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt) said she was ‘really pleased’ that the administration had backed down from the original proposals and praised the handling of the consultation for revealing the impact of any closures on residents.

However, she added that the process could have been improved had different proposals been presented.

“Many of the points made during the consultation were also raised by councillors in January and February at the communities overview and scrutiny, cabinet and full council,” said Cllr del Campo

“I’m sure the process would have been improved somewhat if you had listened to us back then.

“Obviously, you would still need to consult, but it would have been with a much better set of proposals and less stress and worry for residents.”

In response, Cllr Rayner said: “We have definitely not backed down, it’s part of the process in which we had to set a budget which delivered a result for the council.

“Without that result, we wouldn’t be able to be in the position we are now.

“We’ve gone through the right process, but I’m really proud that cabinet has given me this opportunity to go through the whole process and given myself and the library services team the options to come up with this proposal that I’m bringing forward to you tonight.”

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