Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tameside libraries facing closure as spending cuts start to bite!

Many of the borough libraries in the one party state of Tameside in Greater Manchester, could be facing the axe as the council seeks to cut its £3.5 million annual spend on its library service by a minimum of £900,000.

The Labour controlled council currently runs 13 libraries and a home library service. Though the council says that no decision to close libraries has been taken, a report submitted to the Executive Cabinet in November, says:

"It is likely that the number of libraries we provide will need to be reduced."

Libraries which are most risk, are those like Dukinfield, where the report says that customers "are most likely to use another library", whereas, customers using Droylsden and Mossley, are thought to be less inclined to use another library.

While the council have already cut staffing levels in libraries, resulting in savings of over £200,000, the report says:

"It is likely to be necessary however to decrease staffing further in future years and every opportunity will be taken to achieve this through the natural turnover of staff."

Other cost-cutting measures outlined in the report, involve using volunteers to run libraries in place of paid library staff and using community groups, to run libraries from their own buildings. Sharing buildings with other public and private sector providers, to provide a library service, is also one of the other alternative models under consideration.

Plans have already been made to relocate Hattersley library to the new Tesco superstore being built on Hattersley. In addition, reducing library opening hours is also considered an option as well as the use of technology to reduce costs. The report says that the use of e-books and e-reader would reduce costs significantly as well as the greater use of the internet, to access library services.

The role of customer service officers, who work in libraries and offer advice and help with enquiries, is also under review. In a letter to all customer service staff, Adam Allen, Assistant Executive Director for Cultural & Customer Services, says:

"It is recognised that telephone and web based interactions are significantly more cost efficient than face to face contact and are becoming the contact methods of choice for some customers. In order for the service to be affordable going forward, it is necessary to maximise the opportunities to steer customers to use these channels of contact."

The letter says that though customer services staff will be situated at the most convenient location, Ashton Customer services will be the central hub for face-to-face contact and that this will only be provided to those that need it. Also, an appointment system will be introduced as well as a call centre to deal with a range of enquiries from customers.

Kieran Quinn, the leader of the council, is keen that people should have their say about cuts in services and this week the council launched 'The Big Conversation'. However, when it comes to having a conversation with the public about cutting the number of Tameside councillors and their allowances in order to save public money, it's noticeable how he turns a deaf ear to the issue. Perhaps this is understandable when one considers that both himself and his wife Susan, who is the Mayor, last year claimed £67,917.96 between them. His deputy leader, Councillor Taylor, has also claimed £234,810.34 in allowances over the last eight years.

Across the country, campaigners are taking action to stop library closures. Recently, the High Court ruled that the decision by Gloucester and Somerset council's to close libraries was unlawful because they failed to assess the impact library closures would have on the poor, elderly and disabled. In Suffolk, proposals to close libraries were withdrawn following action by protestors.

1 comment:

Robert White said...

Here we are on August 17th and closure of the branch libraries is imminent. Retention of the Branches is not an option under the council's "Big Conversation", and Council Leader Kieran Quinn keeps making the lame and stupid comment that the library "strategy" is "not about buildings" - but of course it is as the buildings are at the heart of these communities, in outlying areas where they are convenient especially for children, the elderly and those without IT access at home. We all know that closure is a stupid and miserable act, but all the councillors seem to do is meekly follow the local Labour Party line of doing the Tories' dirty work for them!!