Kent County Council has agreed a three year plan for libraries which will include a cut to opening hours.
The proposal aims to save the authority £960,000 over the next two years. In 2017-18, KCC spent £15,993,000 on running Libraries, Registration and Archives services. LRA services brought in an income of £6,300,000; the majority of this comes from registration services leaving a cost of £9,623,000.
The vast majority of spend – £11,328,000- is on staffing. The proposals to reduce hours will also mean staff cuts through redundancy, non-filling of vacant posts and/or early retirement.
The Thanet library facing the greatest reduction in hours is Newington, which is set to go from being open 40 hours per week to just 15 hours.
Margate reduces from 55 hours to 42;
Birchington from 40 to 37;
Broadstairs from 55 to 37;
Ramsgate from 53 to 37;
Cliftonville from 40 to 37 ( a change to the original proposal of 28 hours)
Westgate from 38 to 28
Minster from 33 to 23.
The new opening times were reached by looking at the number of visits, loans, computer use, unique visitors, event visitors and building size.
It is proposed that all libraries will be open on Saturdays.
Specialist services such as the mobile library, home library delivery, audio books by post, and residential home services will be brought together under one brand of Library Direct.
The decision has been taken following a ten-week public consultation which ran from 21 November to 29 January. In total 5,547 responses were received from individuals and organisations. KCC says the majority supported the strategy as a way forward for the service.
There will not see be changes until the autumn. The next step will be local engagement in libraries about the exact opening hour patterns customers would like to see.
Mr Hill said: “This strategy offers a sustainable future for the Libraries, Registration and Archive service in the context of the challenging financial situation for Kent County Council.
“Unlike many other local authorities, Kent is committed to keeping all its libraries open if possible and, while I have heard the understandable concerns raised about the reduction of library opening hours, difficult decisions have to be taken.
“The next steps will see this strategy adopted and implemented over the next three years.”
Labour county councillor Karen Constantine said: “I’m frankly disgusted by this decision. The cuts in Newington are clearly a precursor to full closure. That is now an inevitability. It’s impossible to describe the folly of these decisions to reduce opening hours.
“I have met many people, including young people, who have used both Newington and Ramsgate library to help them gain qualifications. Where will they go now?
“I’m especially upset by this decision because at the recent Loneliness and Social isolation select committee, I stressed again and again how important libraries are as community assets, which help to prevent social isolation.”