PARISH and town councils will not be asked to cough up funds to support the district’s libraries next year, a senior councillor has said.
Looking to fill a void in its funding, West Berkshire Council has asked councils to contribute £150,000 to keep its libraries open.
The council is operating on a three-year forecast, but speaking at a recent Cold Ash Parish Council meeting, Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston) said: “We are talking about a window of three years. We are not asking you to sign up for three years.
“I can guarantee that we will not be coming back to ask for more.
“My own stance is if we can’t run this library service in the budget that is set, it just won’t swallow to come back and ask for more money.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Boeck, the district council's executive member for culture, said the council was working on £150,000 each year for three years, but added: “If the service starts to cost more we won’t be able to find funding for it.”
However, he added that he thought this outcome was unlikely as progress was being made on the savings.
When asked at the meeting what would happen if the £150,000 could not be paid this year, Mr Boeck said: “I’m afraid to say that some are unable to contribute. There will be a shortfall.”
He said the service would be scaled back to meet the money available, which could include shorter opening hours and a greater reliance on self-service machines in branches.
Although the council has adopted a stance of running libraries with one paid member of staff supported by volunteers, Mr Boeck said that one size would not fit all.
He issued a financial warning when one resident asked whether the council could fund the libraries from its reserves.
He said: “We don’t have reasonable reserves. We are just about on the mark. There are other reserves that we have as well, for adult social care and the harsh weather fund, but our general reserves are absolutely rock bottom.”