Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Library to be Closed to Fund Possible Tax Rise

By Ben Aulakh

Leicester’s Central Lending Library is to be shut down and its services moved to another site to save £400,000 in staff costs and keep a tax rise to a minimum, according to one city councillor.

The city council wants to transfer services from the Central Lending Library on Belvoir Street to the smaller Learning and Information Library site on Bishop Street.

Andy Connelly, City Spokesman for Culture and Leisure said: “We have now got two libraries within the city centre, we have an opportunity to merge two into one to make savings, and the plan is quite useful in a keeping a tax rise this year down.”

“In the current situation it is a responsible authority that looks to keep a tax rise to a minimum, and we can re-invest money back into improving the library service.”

The lending library site will then be turned into a Multi-Access Centre, supporting local people in looking for work.

A consultation to garner the public’s views on the proposed move started on 1 February, and runs until the 13 February.

Staff costs across the two sites currently stand at £800, 000, once the plan goes ahead it is expected that the cost of staffing one site will be £400,000.

The consultation will cover three main areas including asking people which services they find most important, what they value about staff, and which other services, such as learning sessions and services for children and families, should be available.

Cllr Connelly added, “One the ground and first floor there is space that is under utilised that will be brought into use, we will also look at which are most popular books people borrow.

“This will allow us to rationalise the stock, basically we will have a different size library, and therefore we will have a different size stock of titles to lend.”

However there has been criticism of the planned move; Ross Grant, Leader of the city’s Conservative Group said: “The council have a great opportunity to change library services.

“I’m not precious about change, however what really worries me is that it’s all done for budget and finance, with no strategy for library services; we haven’t seen a strategy so far.”

Cllr Grant believes the cut to services is to fund a tax reduction this year, “We know the council is going to charge a particularly low council tax this year, around two per cent compared to five per cent last year.

“This is because we are going to have a general election in two to three months time, but after that council tax will rise again next year; the result is that everything is driven by politics rather than giving services a boost.”

Photograph by Stuart Hoe.

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