The new opening hours for Kent’s libraries have been decided and will take effect from September 30.
The move follows consultation last November to January over Kent County Council;s three year plan for libraries, including a cut to opening hours.
The changes will 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.
Newington set to go from being open 40 hours per week to 23 hours – an increase on the original proposal of 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.
Each library is currently displaying a poster detailing the new opening hours. For Margate the hours are 10am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 3.30pm on Saturdays.
Ramsgate Town Council held talks with KCC which resulted in agreed hours going up from 15 to 23.
Town clerk Richard Styles said: “A small delegation from Ramsgate Town Council met with the Kent County Council Cabinet member responsible for Libraries, Cllr Mike Hill, and his team.
“We were pleased to find that Kent libraries has reviewed and recalculated the number of opening hours for Newington library and increased the opening hours from 15 hours per week to 23 hours per week. We were told that the latest data on library use justified an increase in hours.
“Ramsgate’s hours remain unchanged at 37 hours in the forthcoming changes to opening hours, which is disappointing, but the Ramsgate delegates made a number of suggestions to justify and increase to tier 1 and 42 hours per week in the future.
“Ramsgate Town Council will work with the library service to deliver increased awareness of the activities within our local libraries and we hope that will prove to be a catalyst to increase community participation in what is after all is a community facility. In short, if we want to retain a decent library service in Ramsgate, we have to use it and support it. If everyone used their library once a week, closure or a reduction of hours would be out of the question.
“We suggested to the library service that they look into relocating Newington library within the community and that a dialog between them and Thanet District Council, takes place as soon as possible.
“We believe that our advocacy to defend local library services has enabled KCC to look again at the data and ameliorate what was very bad news for Newington and Ramsgate; however, it does not end there. If we do not make better use of what is everyone’s birth right it may be lost irrevocably, in the future.
“We think by working with KCC and encouraging them to invest in Ramsgate, we may see improvements and not cuts in services , in the future.”
Labout county councillor Barry Lewis said he was disappointed that the cut to hours is taking place. He said: “Yet again KCC is reducing the services that people pay for with their council tax. I am disgusted that they are paying more money for less services.”
County councillor Mike Hill previously said of the changes: “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.”