Public consultation launches on future of Hertfordshire’s libraries

PUBLISHED: 07:43 13 January 2018

Welwyn Garden City library in Campus West.
Picture: Nina Morgan

Welwyn Garden City library in Campus West. Picture: Nina Morgan

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A public consultation has been launched over a proposal to create an independent organisation to deliver Hertfordshire’s library services on behalf of the cash-strapped county council, which is struggling to balance its books.

Welwyn Garden City library in Campus West.
Picture: Nina MorganWelwyn Garden City library in Campus West. Picture: Nina Morgan

The Inspiring Libraries consultation opened on Monday and runs until February 18, seeking views on an independent organisation - such as a social enterprise, charity or co-operative - delivering library services on behalf of Herts County Council.

The local authority says this could achieve a potential saving in non-domestic rates, and may enable the service to access grants and other sources of funding that would not be available to the county council.

The proposal is part of the strategy ‘Inspiring Libraries – The Next Phase’, which was agreed by the county council in November and sets out the priorities for Hertfordshire libraries for 2018-2021.

It follows on from the original Inspiring Libraries strategy, which was launched in 2014 and saw the county’s libraries ranked in tiers and services reduced from November 2015.

Under Tier 1, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City libraries offer the broadest range of services and have the longest opening hours, with library staff on hand at all times.

Oakmere in Potters Bar falls under Tier 2, which provides core services with the option to have extended hours through volunteer supervised self-service.

Welwyn, Brookmans Park, Cuffley and Goffs Oak libraries are ranked under Tier 3, with self-service facilities which can be added to with the help of volunteers.

The Inspiring Libraries strategy is on track to achieve the expected £2.5 million in savings, but continuing pressure on funding for public services means an additional £500,000 in savings needs to be found by 2019/20.

Councillor Terry Douris, Cabinet member for libraries, said: “Ongoing pressure on the budget means we have to consider how we can continue to save money across all services.

“In order to achieve our ambitions for Inspiring Libraries within a reduced budget and put ourselves in the best position to grasp future opportunities, we need to identify the most appropriate way of managing the library services in the years ahead, and we welcome your views.”

You can complete the consultation survey by visiting www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/libraryconsultation.

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