Wed, 13 Apr 2016
THATCHAM residents are to be asked for their views on how to save the town library from closure.
The library was one of eight across the district earmarked for closure as West Berkshire Council sought to save £18.9m this year.
The council then received £1.4m of ‘transitional funding’ from the Government to help soften the blow of the cuts.
Last month, the district council announced it would use £475,000 of the Government cash to keep libraries open on a temporary basis, but Theale Library and Wash Common Library would close.
However, the council said that no library would close until a detailed needs assessment had been carried out.
Thatcham councillors discussed their next moves at an extraordinary meeting, where they heard that around 54,000 people used the library last year and that it employs five part-time staff.
Town council leader Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said he didn’t want to see any library close, but added they were expensive.
Nevertheless, he said the town council would see if it could do anything to keep Thatcham Library open and to enhance the service.
Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham West) said it would be very challenging to enhance the service, given the limited funds available to the town council.
Mr Ardagh-Walter said that a self-serve model in Thatcham would be an attractive option if issues surrounding it could be resolved.
Julie Goode (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) asked if it would be acceptable to reduce the library’s hours, which she said would “significantly reduce staffing costs and energy while keeping it open”.
Under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1984, local authorities are required to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.
Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) asked what was defined as a library service and what West Berkshire Council actually had to provide residents.
His Lib Dem colleague Lee Dillon replied: “There has to be consideration of need. That’s why the DCMS (Department for Media, Culture and Sport) took the most unusual step of stepping in and saving the council from a judicial review.
“One library in the district will not be comprehensive. Super-efficient but not comprehensive.”
Mr Dillon asked for costings of a self-service library in order for the town council to understand the finances.
He also called on West Berkshire Council to consult with residents on moving to a self-service model.
He suggested that the town council look at reallocating its reserves to support the library.
Conservative Rob Denton-Powell (Thatcham South and Crookham) said that it wasn’t the town council’s duty to provide a library service.
He suggested waiting for the needs assessment to be completed before the town council decided to allocate funding.
Mr Crumly said that the council favoured offering financial support but said that the devil was in the detail, some of which was missing.
“My feeling is this is a service we can’t take on ourselves,” he said.
“We invite the local people in Thatcham to consider ways they would like to support the library service and let us have their views.”