Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Council savings: libraries face cuts

LIBRARY opening hours and book loan times are to be reduced under council savings plans – but the price of taking out a DVD will hugely fall.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council leaders have said they plan to reduce hours in the 12 months from April to save £54,000.

No further details have been given.

Books will be loaned for three weeks instead of four under the plans, to “increase circulation”. An Ebook pilot will be held in the summer.

The council has previously said it needs to “do things differently” to save cash and launched a questionnaire for residents on their library use. More than 1,000 have responded so far.

Councils must by law provide a library service, but the level of service is not set. Some councils have closed branches or handed them to volunteers.

Opening hours were cut in 2010 at Knowle Library to 2pm from 5pm on Saturdays and 5pm compared to 7pm on Mondays.

The Knowle Society later put forward volunteers to keep the library open on Saturday to 4pm. Computer access and enquiries are not available during this time.

A raft of charges face increases but also cuts, including a reduction from £2.30 a week to £1 for DVD rentals and £1.15 to 50p for children.

The council said it had to cut prices because of a “declining market”.

A 15 minute session on Solihull library’s foyer PCs will fall from £1 to 50p because of increased usage.

But the cost of hiring CDs for a week will rise from 55p to 75p.

It is part of £12m savings needed to balance the council’s £145m budget in the 12 months from April.

The public are being asked for their views on how to save the cash in a 12 week consultation, which closes on February 8.

Initial responses, of 100 people, include suggestions to close libraries, cut hours and staffing and have volunteers run branches and to charge to hire books.

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