15th Dec, 2019

ALL libraries across Worcestershire will remain open despite staff cuts likely

Harry Leach 12th Jul, 2019

ALL libraries across Worcestershire will remain open despite County Council chiefs admitting staff cuts are still likely.

The council launched a public consultation into the future of the service between October 2018 and February this year.

It came after announcing it needed to make savings of £1million in the service by 2020-21.

To meet those targets the council says a ‘new approach is required’ to ‘substantially transform’ library service delivery models while also promoting wider engagement and use of services.

Cabinet members say they are delighted no libraries will close but admit staff cuts are expected as the libraries move towards a more ‘technology-based future’.

Coun Lucy Hodgson, county council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “During the consultation period we listened to the feedback and took it all on board.

“The process is not about closing libraries, we’ve never said that, it’s about having a better, improved library service across the county.

“We will be looking at our staffing levels – for example having single-staffed libraries where only one person is needed to man the library at a time.

“Also improving our technology with Open Plus, and discovering new ways to reduce social isolation and provide safe places for vulnerable people.

“Our plan is to work with different partners to create multi-purpose hubs which are beneficial and useful to our communities.”

The automated Open Plus system, which has already been rolled out in other parts of the country, means libraries could be open earlier and for longer periods.

Entry would be via card and pin, with CCTV acting as security and self-service machines and computers doing away with the need for staff members.

County Council officers visited Open Plus libraries in South Gloucestershire and were pleased with what they saw, which was reflected in their reports.

Leader of Bromsgrove District Council, Coun Karen May, said: “We are very pleased with the report and how we are moving forward.

“Now we want to look at improving our adult social care because it must be addressed.”

Cabinet member with responsibility for highways, Coun Alan Amos, said: “Over £3.9m of efficiency savings have been achieved since 2011/2012.

“It’s really not about closing down libraries but instead working out how to make them more relevant, modernising them and keeping up with changing demands.”

Leader of Worcestershire County Council, Coun Simon Geraghty, said: “I want to thank the whole of the council for its efforts getting us to where we are today.

“I’m glad we’re looking at ways to more money coming into the service rather than just making saving or reductions.”

The full library strategy will be brought back to Worcestershire County Council in November after implementation plans are in place.

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