06:03PM, Thursday 21 January 2021
Findings from a consultation on reducing library opening hours in the Royal Borough were debated at a council scrutiny panel this week.
A survey was conducted in September last year seeking people’s views on council plans to cut library opening times. The consultation lasted until November 30.
Cabinet are due to vote on whether to approve the amended hours at a meeting next week, on Thursday, January 28.
Key changes – set to take place from June 1 – include Maidenhead and Windsor libraries opening on Sundays, while Cookham Library will be open on Fridays.
However there will be earlier closure times on Mondays and Tuesdays at Maidenhead (5.30pm), while Cox Green and Boyn Grove libraries will be closed on Sundays.
The council hopes to make a saving of £145,000 through these alterations.
The Royal Borough said that it had received 1,815 responses to the consultation, which was originally due to take place in March but was postponed due to the emergence of the ongoing pandemic.
The council added that ‘this is a high number in terms of RBWM consultation response rates, but a very small percentage of actual library users.”
Key points from the survey saw a preference for later opening hours to fit in with young and working people; and a need for people to use the libraries to access the internet.
“A large number of respondents requested that Maidenhead and Windsor libraries continue to open on a Sunday as this is the only time many families are able to visit the library,” the council report added.
Opposition councillor Helen Price (TBF, Clewer and Dedworth East) asked whether the libraries were liaising with nearby schools to ensure children working from home had access to technology, suggesting that spare laptops could be provided.
The council’s senior finance officer, Adele Taylor, responded by saying the borough is ‘keeping an eye on this’.
Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle), the council’s deputy leader and lead member for resident services, used Monday’s meeting as an opportunity to thank people who had taken part in the engagement process.
“This is a clear case of the value of consultation and feedback,” Cllr Rayner told the communities overview and scrutiny panel.
“Other comments were that this [the libraries] are the best thing RBWM provides and definitely one of the best things about living here."
Also discussed at the meeting was a brief update on the waste and recycling situation in the Royal Borough.
Controversy was rife in the summer when the council returned to weekly bin collections post-lockdown, with residents complaining of missed and rotting bins for several months.
Cllr Price asked what the latest was in relation to the waste service, querying whether the borough was ‘back to normal’ and claimed that ‘we still get residents who find that bins do not get collected on time’.
Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray), lead member for waste, said: “As far as my information is, the service is now running at a normal level.
“There will always be a certain number missed, which is normally because [crews] can’t get access to roads if there are roadworks or things parked in their way.
“We try to collect anything missed the next day.”
He added: “I think we are all very satisfied with where the service has got back to and look forward to it continuing the same.”
Also discussed at Monday's meeting was the council's draft 2021/22 budget, with public speakers claiming that the borough was forcing people to 'spend more for less' as it seeks to save itself £8million.
The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.