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Reporting Back: Libraries and the Longfield Suite

by timpickstone on December 4, 2012

Last week was the regular meeting of Bury Council’s ‘Cabinet’. I get to go as one of the two Opposition Party leaders in Bury.

There were two particularly contraversial issues on the agenda last week that it is worth sharing with people.

Libraries
The Cabinet considered a plan to make quite significant savings in the Council’s Library service. The savings (which total roughly £750,000) are going to be made in two Phases. Phase 1 was agreed last week, and only really affects the main Library in Bury itself. The changes are significant with a number of staff members now being given notice of redundancy etc.

What worries me is Phase 2, which I understand will be announced in March 2013. Phase 2 will be bigger (roughly £500,000) and as I understanding it will be largely looking at Libraries in the towns outside Bury (Radcliffe, Whitefield, Prestwich etc). The word I keep hearing is that the Council is looking at a number of ‘co-location options’ (which is a clever way of saying that Libraries will close).

Obviously I will let you know when I know more about these proposals. I do know how important the Library in Prestwich is to many local people.

Civic Suites and the Longfield Suite
The meeting also considered a report on the future of Bury’s Civic Suites. There are four of these, including our own Longfield Suite in the village centre.

At the moment the suites are losing quite a lot of money (around £700,000 a year when you include overheads). The Council commissioned an independent report to see how things could be improved which is now available.

The report has identified a number of ideas for helping attract more custom back to civic suites (more marketing, easier ways to book and for shorter periods, different catering offers etc). The Council is giving them 18 months to get back on track and will then review the situation.

I really hope this works, but my worry is that the Council seems to refuse to consider whether there are any options for ‘outsourcing’ the running of the suites to independent or private organisations. It may be that there are people out there who want to invest money in improving the facilities and running the venues in a way that both secures their future AND doesn’t cost local tax payers so much money. I think the Council should be exploring this as a good way of securing the long term future of these important community venues – not just 18 months.

What do you think?
If you are someone who uses either Prestwich Library or the Longfield Suite I would really appreciate your views on what should happen or if there are things that could be done differently.

Tim

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