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Council propose slashing library opening hours by 25%

11 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Conwy Culture Centre

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

A council could slash library opening hours by 25% in a bid to save more money – following a proposed public consultation due to be rubber-stamped by cabinet next week.

The move would see a restructure with staff redundancies, but the reduced hours would mean Conwy Council clawing back £157,126 annually.

But a council report has revealed that, if the cuts were made, no savings would be made until 2025/26 because of the cost of making redundancies and paying off staff.

Black hole

Cash-strapped Conwy faces a £25m black hole. The Welsh Government announced in December that the authority will receive the joint lowest percentage rise in Wales, together with Gwynedd, of its annual local government settlement, an increase of just 2%.

Consequently, the council has modelled for an 8%, 9%, 10%, and a huge 11% council tax rise – and is even considering increasing the cost of a home safety alarm scheme so it makes a profit from the elderly and vulnerable.

Other controversial proposals include wide-spread service cuts and slashing school budgets, despite the damage to children’s education caused by COVID.

Now library opening hours are at serious risk despite the service’s hours having already being cut by 20% in 2013.

Llandudno Conservative councillor Harry Saville slammed the plans.

Manifesto

“The largest political party running Conwy Council following the last local elections was the Labour Party, and they stood on a manifesto committing to make the most of our libraries to celebrate our heritage, culture, and creativity, as well as to improve people’s well-being,” he said.

“So it comes as a surprise to now find that they’re planning to defund these valued local services.

“If the council progress their plans, it is only right that the public have their say via a public consultation. I would encourage local residents to make their concerns known if the proposals progress that far.”

Speaking ahead of the public consultation being given the green light, Llandudno Labour councillor Mandy Hawkins said it was vital residents made their feelings known as part of the upcoming public consultation.

Cllr Hawkins is not a cabinet member but said it was better that library hours were reduced than libraries being lost altogether.

“We all know our library services are such a loved and much needed part of our communities, and public consultation is a key part of this before any changes are made to opening hours,” she said.

“Reducing opening hours is the alternative to closure of one or more of our libraries, which we know once they’re closed, they very rarely reopen.

“Every service department within the council is having to make large cuts. I know I didn’t become a councillor to make unpalatable cuts, but it is something all councils are having to do after the years of austerity and the lack of funding from the UK Government.”

Vulnerable residents

She added, “We know how important many of these services are to all our residents, especially our vulnerable residents, and ultimately, at the end of the day, whichever decisions are made regarding all these services, it’s our residents who will be affected, so I urge all residents to fill in any consultations the council have put out to ensure your voice is listened to.”

The library service has 28,000 members and helped more than 235,000 customers in 2022/23.

But the service is regarded as especially valuable to the more vulnerable in society as the buildings provide a safe, warm space where access to computers and wifi provide ‘a lifeline’ to many.

According to the report, Conwy’s post-pandemic library service use has recovered well with Llandudno library seeing 60% more visits between April to September 2023 than the previous year whilst Abergele and Conwy libraries have also seen increases of 50%.

The council also admits these increases have occurred concurrently with steady increases in book loans and customer enquiries.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
14 days ago

To save a pittance at the cost of children’s and older people’s quality of life, community cohesion and much of the village hub. It is becoming increasingly clear that, regardless of money, councils are proving a threat to civil life…from trees to toddlers…

John Richardson
John Richardson
14 days ago

Shocking, that Library services are considered for cutbacks, after all public libraries are more than just for borrowing books: warm spaces in the cooler months, access to digital servicds, early reading groups etc , time for Conwy to look at it’s vanity projects first – Eiras Park and the stadium for example or Venue Cymru. Conwy is supposed to be the most commercialised County in North Wales because of Llandudno but it appears that suffering mass tourism does not equate to good local services for local people. When will Labour and Conservatives start putting communities first like neighbouring Gwynrdd, come… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
14 days ago

It is an absolute crime that the line has been drawn so far west, there must be a serious plan by Plaid to free Conwy once and for all…

Last edited 14 days ago by Mab Meirion

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