Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cash Boost For West Country Libraries

By Ben Aulakh

Despite 50,000 fewer visitors through their doors, and a budget cut last year, libraries in Gloucestershire could be in for an extra £500, 000 this year.

The possible extra funding for libraries in the county has been put down to more people paying council tax.

The sudden spending boost comes after Gloucestershire County Council announced last year it was cutting library budgets, to pay for a rise in spending on caring for the vulnerable and elderly.

The local authority says that the changes have come out of a 12 week public consultation, which started on November 19 last year, and runs until February 11.

Councillor Antonia Noble, cabinet member for caring and community services said, “We have listened to what the people of Gloucestershire have told us and we're acting on what they said.”

The additional money could mean the county's most popular Library’s staying open for longer, alongside an extra £100,000 to buy books, audio books and other new stock.

The extra funding should also include a one-off pot of £50,000 to help people open their own community libraries.

Cllr Noble added, “This extra funding will give local communities better access to their local libraries and more peace of mind to those thinking of taking on a community library.”

The possible 10 per cent rise in spending would come on top of the original £4.8 million budget for the sector, taking the new total to a proposed £5.3 million.

Cllr Noble went on, “The council will continue to work with the Library Links to develop them with volunteers and the community, with the aim of increasing opening hours even further.”

However the consultation document also asked people in the county for their views on how the council can make savings of £2.5 million.

A press release issued by GCC states that ‘The reality of approximately 30 per cent cut in funding means that we cannot afford to sustain the current library network.’

This means that the Homelink and Share a Book mobile libraries, which serve older people in residential accommodation and children in deprived areas, are to be scrapped

The increase in funding for the library sector across the county comes as the local authority is having to make savings of £108 million over the next four years.

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