Council rethinks library closures following resident comments

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Datchet Library is among several libraries that could be saved from potential closure – if the council accepts revised proposals for libraries across the borough.

The Royal Borough is reconsidering suggestions to close or reduce the opening hours of several libraries, following feedback from the public.

In February’s full meeting of the council, the borough’s draft budget for 2021-22 was approved, which included controversial recommendations for library ‘transformation’.

Having received more than a thousand responses from residents via a public consultation, the council will examine a revised library strategy next week.

On Tuesday, a communities overview and scrutiny’s panel will discuss the new recommendations.

The original proposals recommended closing certain libraries and further reducing the opening hours of others to provide a total of 217.5 opening hours per week.

Datchet Library was among those that was earmarked for potential closure. It is now proposed that it should remain open for 13 hours per week.

If the new strategy is accepted, Sunninghill Library and Old Windsor Library will also remain open.

Sunninghill would open for 20 hours a week and Old Windsor Library for six hours.

Eton Wick Library would open for 17 hours rather than 13 and Dedworth Library would remain open for its current 23 hours a week, instead of reducing to 13.

The library service will seek support from the proposed Windsor Town Council to support Dedworth Library.

The final recommendation is to keep all libraries open and deliver 314.5 opening hours a week in total, a reduction of 38.5 hours.

This could be further reduced if alternative provisions, such as a pop-up library, can be established at in Sunningdale and some Maidenhead areas – and if additional funding can be secured from partners or from hire of library spaces.

One suggestion is a home library service which will replace the mobile library vehicle, creating savings of £40,000 per year.

This will be supported by 50 volunteers committing to five hours per month.

A key finding of the recent consultation was that more residents arrive at a library on foot than by car and only four per cent use public transport.

The report suggests it will be difficult for those households without a vehicle, where income deprivation makes public transport unviable, to access the library.

The aim of the changes is to deliver savings for the council – and officers’ recommendations say that the revised library strategy will deliver savings of £292,000 in total between 2021-22 and 2022-23.

By keeping the container library in one location, the council can save £55,000 per year on towing costs. The recommendation is to retain the container at Wraysbury.

The new proposals have been shaped by conversations with partners and stakeholders which have potentially secured £60,500 in additional support.

These will be made up of reductions in rent, cleaning costs and funding for staffing.

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