Saturday, 29 January 2011

Reading Borough Council bucks the national trend on libraries

Across the country many councils are closing libraries. In the neighbourhood that I was born Labour-run Camden Council is making cuts of 20% to its library services, a move which has been opposed by Lib Dem councillors who have argued that these cuts could have been avoided by making savings in other areas.
I'm proud to say that in Reading we are moving in the opposite direction from many other councils - with the welcome news announced earlier this week that the Council is extending opening hours across the local library network.
  • Opening hours at Caversham library have risen from 36.5 a week to 50.5
  • Palmer Park it has gone from 29 to 41.5 hours,
  • Tilehurst is up from 36.5 to 42.5 hours,
  • Battle has risen 29 to 39.5 hours,
  • Whitley from 29 to 34.5,
  • Southcote from 29 to 33.5
  • Central from 50 to 52.5 hours
This follows a survey of library users which found that people would like to see more local libraries open at lunch times, for example. We hope this will make our libraries more accessible to residents.
As Labour Councillor Mike Orton noted at Full Council this week politics is about taking tough choices.
As I said in my recent speech on social care, if we do not make better use of available resources rising demand will have a big impact on the amount we have to spend on discretionary services such as leisure and culture.  The Council's auditors KPMG echoed this in their annual audit letter which was presented to Cabinet a couple of weeks ago:
"facing up to these challenges will require revolutionary transformation of public sector services, rather than tinkering. Strong leadership from Members and senior management will be essential as it may be the case that further savings over and above those in the performance improvement plan are required."
I'm pleased the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition Administration of Reading Borough Council has made the decision to expand rather than reduce library provision for residents.  We have only been able to do this because we are facing up to the financial challenges the Council faces whilst also prioritising the areas that matter to residents.

1 comment:

  1. This is good news. Libraries provide access to knowledge (books, internet) which can be otherwise difficult to obtain for some of the people who benefit from that access more the most.