Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Cabinet Decision: 6th October 2016
Title of Item/Report
Review of Community Libraries
Record of the Decision
Consideration was given to a report on the review of the community libraries and the public consultation associated with proposed changes to library provision.

There were statutory requirements with regard to the provision of library services (Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964). Local Authorities must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons in the area that want to make use of it, taking into account local needs and within available resources.

Local Council’s must:

• Have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service.
• Lend books and other printed materials free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area.

A comprehensive service as defined by case law does not mean that every resident had to live close to a library. It was about delivering services accessible to residents, including using digital technology and making use of available resources. There were currently ten libraries in the borough.

In February of this year Cabinet considered the Medium Term financial Plan and associated strategy to 2020. Members were advised that a budget reduction of a minimum of £130K per year was the targeted saving for the library service.

At the March Cabinet, reference was made to the 2011 Library Strategy which set out a differentiated approach to services, with six town centre libraries providing the widest range of services and smaller co-located branches giving access to a more basic offer. The report highlighted to members that two remaining branches at Egglescliffe and Fairfield were not town centre libraries; neither had they co-located on this basis. Their future should be considered as part of the requirement for cost savings.

In addition to day to day provision of a range of library services, a number of other activities were held at Egglescliffe Library:

• Stay & Play.
• Homework sessions (late night).
• Children’s craft sessions during school holidays.
• Summer Reading Challenge (during main school holidays).
• Learning Support Assistant (help with ICT for adults) twice a month.
• Staff are involved in the delivery of Stockton Children’s Book of the Year.
• Staff visit local schools promoting the Library Service, events and activities.
• Printing and photocopying.

Closure would primarily impact on older, more isolated people and young mothers and their children. Mobile library stops were already provided in the Eaglescliffe area and it would be possible to provide new stops if necessary as part of the three weekly route cycle. Those who could not make their way to Yarm Library and who may find the mobile inaccessible, could be included in the housebound library service delivery schedule.

Yarm Library had been subject to significant investment with improved disabled access and overall refurbishment. Parking provision in Yarm had been recently increased and improved.

Local ward members were invited to meet with the Cabinet member for Arts, Leisure and Culture to discuss the proposed closure and consider if there were any alternative proposals coming forward from the local community, which hadn’t already been considered and could mitigate the impact. An approach had been made from the Committee running the local community centre and a meeting was held on 16 August with two representatives of the centre. Discussions would take place on joint working to mitigate the impact of closure. The closure of Egglescliffe library would contribute to the overall required savings for this review.

Following closure of Egglescliffe Library, the library building would be transferred to the Council’s Asset Team who would appraise options for future use of the building.

Opening hours at Fairfield Library were halved during the last review in 2013; it currently opens 3.5 days per week (22 hours) and was popular.

In addition to the usual range of library services, Fairfield library provided a range of other activities such as:

• Monday Group (Adult Social).
• Parent & Toddler/Rhymetime.
• Funky Feet.
• Chair Dance (Adults).
• Children’s craft sessions during school holidays.
• Summer Reading Challenge (during main school holidays).
• Learning Support Assistant (help with ICT for adults) twice a month.
• Staff are involved in the delivery of Stockton Children’s Book of the Year.
• Staff visit local schools promoting the Library Service, events and activities.
• Faxing, printing/copying for people within the community.

Two options had been under consideration with regard to the future of this library: closure or the identification of a third party to enable co location into or out-with the library; therefore reducing both running and staffing costs. Co-location would however mean that less savings would be achieved in this location and therefore further staffing reductions would have to be sought elsewhere in the library service (through reduced staffing costs).

Co-locating to an alternative site would incur considerable capital costs as it would be necessary to purchase new shelving (the original shelves at Fairfield are built into the wall and the wooden island units were not suitable for flexible use elsewhere), install computer lines and connections and fit out the space for library use. If an alternative provision was identified, costs would have to be reasonable and proportionate. A co-location in the existing building would be much less costly as the infrastructure was mostly in place and the library could be separated off.

A number of options had been considered for Fairfield:

i. Adult Learning
The possibility of converting part of this building to an adult learning centre was explored - an arrangement which had been successful elsewhere across the region. Initial discussions with Adult Learning had been encouraging but unfortunately, in recent months, as the emphasis nationally on adult learning funding had shifted to a different focus, the feasibility of any kind of partnership at Fairfield had gone. Fairfield would have been an ideal place to provide informal adult learning opportunities but under the new guidelines, these would not be funded by the FSA, removing the likelihood of supporting any kind of “centre” there.

ii. Post Office Co-location
Post office co-locations tend to be within retail outlets with a good business base. However, discussions took place with the regional manager who had responsibility for establishing partnerships and post office provision across local areas. His advice was that to establish a link with a library in the Fairfield area would not be feasible due to the good provision which already exists within the area. There were post offices at Rimswell, to the north of the library, and at Rosehill to the south of the branch in Hartburn. The only existing post office vacancy was in Grangefield, but much closer to the town centre and beyond the main catchment area of Fairfield Library. In all cases, the role of Postmaster would have to be agreed to, and this was usually a retailer or a community group. It was not usually appropriate for a local authority officer to take on this role. There were a couple of examples of post office and library co-locations across the country, but in both cases the role of Postmaster has been taken up by a community or retail organisation.

iii. Elmwood Centre
Onsite Building Trust were approached to discuss whether a small library service point could be incorporated within their building at Elmwood and a site visit was undertaken to look at potential space. Although Onsite were keen to explore options, their capacity to host a reduced size library space was very limited due to the high level of existing business at the Elmwood Centre. Two rooms would have provided a space to occupy, but because of regular usage by other groups and a lack of space, it would have been impossible to accommodate even mobile shelving and units to provide enough library stock to make this a viable alternative. Without displacing existing users, this building was not an option.

iv. Boys Club
A suggestion had been made that the Fairfield Boys Club building may be a useful place to look for a space. When contacted it became clear that this would not be a co-location as the building would generally not be occupied when the library was open and, therefore, a full staffing compliment would be required (negating the required staff savings).

v. Spark Building - Our Lady and St Bede’s
The former Spark building at Our Lady and St Bede’s was considered and discounted due to the location to the north of the current site coupled with the accessibility of the building. The vacant space was on the first floor with an inadequate lift for public use and was also controlled by a “reception” style access. The building was some distance from the main communities who use Fairfield Library.

vi. Co-location Within the Existing Building
Two suggestions for co-location within the existing library were explored. The challenge with this approach was for another organisation to take over responsibility (the majority of running costs) for the building, as running costs were around £16-17K per annum, plus any maintenance issues.

vii. Onsite
Onsite were spoken to about the possibility of their taking the building on and making alterations to provide an extra bookable room, and bookable dual use library spaces. Unfortunately, due to their ongoing commitment to develop other sites within the Borough (as part of their business plan), taking on the Fairfield site was not a viable option.

viii. Nursery Provision
The Government had recently announced a commitment to providing 30 hours of free childcare for qualifying working parents of three and four year olds from September 2017. In response to this, the Council had been reviewing current nursery provision across the borough and identifying gaps in provision. This initial analysis led to an identified shortage of nursery provision within a number of other areas including Fairfield, as set out in a report elsewhere on this agenda. The requirement for nursery places means there was capital funding for building conversions such as would be required at Fairfield. This resource could be utilised to make the necessary changes to the library building including external play space, suitable toilet facilities, security etc. and to separate off the library provision. A nursery could be accommodated in either the full building, or part of it. It was anticipated that the new and significantly smaller library could operate from the area which was currently the children’s Library and as such the services that could be provided here would be reduced, but nevertheless there would still be a library presence. For co-location at Fairfield Library to go ahead, it would be necessary for the Library to close on a temporary basis, to facilitate capital works and the new library service at Fairfield would be operational from September 2017 for the beginning of the academic school year. The mobile library would be utilised to provide a service within the area during the closure.

The Council had estimated the cost of continuing to provide a library service on a co-located basis and based the costs on similar co-located library provision in our borough. It was anticipated £24,061 for staffing (one senior library information assistant - 23 hours and one library information assistant - 18.5 hours), which would allow the library to open Monday to Friday in line with the nursery provision. In addition to staffing costs, it was estimated a maximum of £9,000 for running costs. The proposed staffing structure across library services had been adjusted to reflect the need to achieve more savings. It was necessary for the library to be closed on a temporary basis for capital work to be undertaken and the Council would have to procure the building works in addition to a nursery provider. The total saving at the site would be £33,741

The cost of closing Fairfield Library would be the full cost i.e. £66,802 but building back into the staff structure half-time Librarian to create capacity for outreach / mobile services at a cost of £15,592, would produce a net saving of £51,210.

The target saving for the library service review is £130K and the remaining cost savings would be delivered via a new and reduced staffing structure, which would be subject to staff consultation; with the assumed income of £12,000 (co-location of Newcastle Building Society in to Yarm Library) and £11,000 from Public Health to fund staffing for the Public Health Resource at Roseworth Library.

Members were provided with details of the consultation approach and results including the petitions that had been received. Copies were provided of the consultation documents.

Councillors and Members of the public were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to speak on the item. Their comments could be summarised as follows:-

- The staff at the libraries were a hub of the community and were really helpful.
- Could the closure of Egglescliffe library be delayed to allow more time to find a co-location that would be suitable.
- The libraries were more than just a library providing services for all ages but specifically elderly and mothers and young children.

RESOLVED that:-

1. The results of the public consultation exercise on proposed changes to library provision be noted.

2. In line with the previously agreed Library Strategy and reflecting the significant investment in remaining core urban area libraries, the closure of the library at Egglescliffe be agreed and a collaboration with Egglescliffe Community Centre be pursued to mitigate the impact of closure.

3. The co-location of Fairfield library with a nursery provider be supported.

4. Commencement of consultation on a revised staffing structure across library services be acknowledged.
Reasons for the Decision
In the context of the significant reduction in the Council’s resources, services across the Council are subject to review. The recommendation was in line with the Library Strategy which was agreed by Cabinet in 2011.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
None
Declared (Cabinet Member) Conflicts of Interest
None
Details of any Dispensations
N/A
Date and Time by which Call In must be executed
Midnight, 14th October 2016
Attachment

Date of Publication: 10 October 2016


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