Libraries give us power - say protesters opposing cuts

Barry And District News: LIBRARIES GAVE US POWER: Protesters gather outside the Civic Offices (5725050) LIBRARIES GAVE US POWER: Protesters gather outside the Civic Offices (5725050)

CROWDS gathered outside Barry’s Civic Offices today (Monday) to protest about proposed changes to Vale library services.

Vale Council cabinet members were meeting to discuss a report which has recommended consultation be carried out on the future management of St Athan, Dinas Powys, Sully and Wenvoe libraries with the idea they could become community libraries run by local volunteers with support from the Council.

Barry library could face a reduction in hours and staff and further budget cuts some of which would include the amount of money spent on books and cleaning.

The proposed strategy would, the Vale Council said, allow it to make savings of up to £500,000 as it faces making severe budget cuts.

The Council said it was revitalising library services, following a full consultation exercise.

The plans, it said, informed by the recent library review, would see Wi-Fi service upgraded and extended and digital services such as e-books emphasised.

It said under the proposals no libraries in the Vale would close but new proposals to work in partnership with communities could be agreed.

But concerned residents gathered at the UNISON-organised demonstration said the proposals could mean a reduction in activities and information available to disadvantaged groups.

And using non-qualified volunteers would mean a lack of expertise available to library users, a less reliable service, and issues surrounding data protection.

Protesters also voiced concerns that groups such as MIND in the Vale and Ty Hapus, which caters for people with early onset alzheimers and dementia, would, as service users, suffer as a result of changes to the system.

Grandmother-of-four Jemima Williams, of Barry, said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting they are thinking of closing the libraries - even if it just one hour.

“A lot of people haven’t got access to computers or Kindles. You can’t lose the smell and feel of a book.”

Mum-of-two Penni Carr, of Barry, added: “It should be the hub of the community.”

Vale Council leader, Cllr Neil Moore said: "The way in which our residents use libraries is changing. This fact coupled with the financial pressures that the Council is currently facing has prompted a radical re-think of how we provide library services. The outcome of this is a new way of working that will not only secure the future of all of the Vale's libraries, but also broaden their appeal to bring in a new generation of library users.

"There will be full consultation on the proposed strategy, which looks to find innovative solutions to the huge financial pressures facing local authorities across Wales rather than just closing services down.

"The Council is fully committed to the future of library services and has also committed over £300,000 to refurbish library buildings to ensure a quality service for local residents and that we will continue to do everything within our power to support the Vale's libraries."

He added: “The staff consultation process going forward will be undertaken in accordance with the Council’s agreed Avoiding Redundancy procedures - where appropriate - and with a clear emphasis on pursuing redeployment options, exploring consensual ways of managing changes to staffing rotas and seeking voluntary reductions in staffing levels - where this is necessary.”

The agreed report will be referred to the Vale Council’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee for consideration with the strategy’s final approval made by cabinet at a further meeting.

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