Library cuts slammed in north Wales county
Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter
A proposal to cut library opening times in half in a north Wales county has been slammed.
Denbighshire Council announced plans to reduce opening hours across the county’s library service by 50%.
The proposal, announced at the start of Libraries Week, would see jobs lost, and has been heavily criticised by opposition councillors.
They have now called for a meeting to discuss what can be done about the proposals.
Independent group leader Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts said the proposals will hit the most vulnerable if they go ahead.
“I’m perplexed how this library cut has come after a series of budget meetings,” he said.
“I’m surprised that the Labour/Plaid coalition have issued a consultation without engaging with all members.
“Libraries are key services for vulnerable people, students, children and people in education.
“We just feel, as a group of independent councillors, we’ve not been given the data that’s why they’ve arrived at this decision.
“I can’t even tell you who uses the library right now because we haven’t been privy to that information.
“This decision to take it to consultation without engaging with councillors is just a total new way of working. Libraries are used for well-being.
“People who haven’t got bank accounts use it for paying bills and council tax and rent, and also, over the summer, children take part in book campaigns and engage.
“Obviously people can keep warm, but it’s also about the services on offer at the library.
“It isn’t just about books. It’s about computer access, being able to photocopy documents, and some students rely on the library for access to a computer for their education.”
He added: “It is ironic that they’ve launched this consultation during national Libraries Week.”
Cllr Hugh Evans added: “We’ve invested for many years in the libraries, and we’ve got the best service in Wales. It is extremely disappointing and concerning.
“People in the community depend on it for their various needs. It is an important facility for people to use across the county.”
Denbighshire has also proposed to reduce other elements of the service, including the home library service.
The council says the proposals will ensure that access to a library is available geographically across the county each weekday.
Denbighshire says libraries close together, namely Ruthin and Denbigh; Llangollen and Corwen; St Asaph and Rhuddlan; and Prestatyn and Rhyl, will complement each other’s service by ensuring one is open for at least part of each day.
Cabinet lead member for Welsh language, culture, and heritage Cllr Emrys Wynne said: “Over recent years, Denbighshire County Council has worked hard to build a comprehensive service, and the council is hugely disappointed that it is unable to continue with this service in its entirety.
“However, this is the economic reality that is affecting all local authorities at present.
“Unfortunately, this model will have an impact on library staff across the service and the council will meet with staff and trade unions to fully consult on these proposals.
“The model put forward aims to present a fair and equitable service across the county.
“By ensuring that all libraries remain open in some capacity, the council hopes it will be able to return to a full service in future when the economic climate is more favourable.”
A consultation phase will run until Monday, October 30.
Members of the public can have their say either through the council’s consultation portal, County Conversation on here, or they can submit hard copy responses to any council-run library in Denbighshire.
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