The charity, Libraries Connected launches a vital support program for over 650 libraries facing imminent budget cuts across the UK, aiming to fortify these community pillars against financial adversity and safeguard their indispensable contributions to literacy, health, and digital inclusion. Here’s the full story.
Libraries Budget Cuts
Libraries Connected, the charity representing library services in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has unveiled a new support program aimed at assisting at-risk libraries grappling with proposed budget cuts across the country. The initiative addresses the financial crisis affecting local authorities in England and Wales.
Over 20 library services, comprising approximately 650 public, prison, and mobile libraries, have joined Libraries Connected’s support scheme. This initiative encompasses a confidential peer support network, a resource library, tailored training, and communications support. The goal is to help councils maintain effective, inclusive, and sustainable local library services despite facing reduced resources.
Financial Struggles of Councils
The launch of this support program comes against the backdrop of concerning findings from a Local Government Association study. Nearly one in five council leaders and chief executives express the belief that issuing a section 114 notice, akin to declaring bankruptcy, is very or fairly likely within the next year.
Libraries Connected CEO Isobel Hunter emphasizes her deep concern about the impact of such notices on library services. She said, “While we recognise that no service can be fully protected, there are clear economic and social reasons why libraries should be safeguarded. Libraries have a demonstrable long-term impact on literacy, health, employment, digital inclusion and many more outcomes.
They are also a cost-effective and efficient means to deliver a range of council services within communities. Our new support programme will help library leaders make that case to senior officers, elected members and government-appointed commissioners.”
Several regions in the UK are grappling with budget-cut proposals affecting their library services. Denbighshire council recently approved a 40% cut to library opening hours, aiming to save £360,000 annually. Similarly, Swindon council, facing a £660,000 budget cut, plans to maintain library services by implementing operational changes rather than closing core libraries.
Nottingham’s Library Service Review
Nottingham City Council, having issued a section 114 notice in November, is now proposing a review of its library service, potentially involving £1.5 million in cuts and the loss of 31 jobs. A public consultation on these proposed cuts is open until January 16, reflecting the ongoing challenges faced by libraries in various regions.
Libraries Connected emphasizes the long-term impact of libraries on literacy, health, employment, and digital inclusion. The charity aims to utilize data and case studies gathered through its support program to formulate recommendations for key stakeholders, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England.
Isobel Hunter highlights that libraries are not only integral to various societal outcomes but also serve as cost-effective means to deliver a range of council services within communities. The support program aims to empower library leaders to advocate for the preservation of these vital community resources in the face of financial constraints.
As Libraries Connected acknowledges the limitations of its support program, Hunter underscores that the broader council funding crisis requires a fair, long-term financial settlement for local government. Until such a resolution is reached, the charity remains committed to collaborating with local authorities to ensure the provision of the best possible library services within existing financial constraints.
The post Are UK Libraries Doomed? 1 in 5 UK Fear Bankruptcy in 2024 first appeared on Edge Media.
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