Protestors’ plea to Nottingham City Council to keep libraries open in proposals to save £28m

Protestors gathered outside the entrance to Nottingham City Council’s Loxley House headquarters to plead with them to not close three libraries as part of proposals to save money.

The local authority has identified Basford, Radford Lenton and Aspley libraries as facilities which “have low usage and high cost”.

Also being put forward are plans to change how services are delivered.

The city council is looking to achieve £28m of savings this year, and councillors have already backed plans for some children’s centres to close and some youth workers’ jobs to be cut.

Another one of those proposals could see three libraries shut, which would be expected to save around £233,000.

The Save Nottingham Libraries campaign group have launched a petition for people to make their feelings known.

A public consultation has now started into the proposals.

Protestors gathered ahead of the council’s Executive Board meeting on Tuesday (February 22).

Stewart Halforty, 41, from Sneinton, said: “We’re a group of concerned citizens and these libraries that are proposed to close are in the poorest parts of the city where people need access to free books and free internet access the most.

“When I’ve been to the library, I find a lot of people who don’t have Wi-Fi at home, and we are going into a cost of living crisis.

“If you want to get children into reading, you can’t constantly keep buying books as they read them so quickly, but you can take a few out and swap them, and it’s important that children know how this service works.

“We know the council are under pressure to close these libraries, but when these libraries go, they’re not coming back, it’s an old system, but it’s something that should be preserved – these are the last cuts that should be made.”

Tom Unterrainer, 41, from Forest Fields, said: “I have an eight-year-old and a two-year-old and we were at Basford library on Saturday (February 19) morning picking up some children’s books, and my children and family are regular visitors.

“We go once-a-fortnight at least, and when you get to the point libraries are proposed for closure, that rings significant alarm bells at what’s going on and how much trouble they’re in financially.

“Seeing these new proposals have left me feeling dismayed.

“I believe the council is aware of what damage could be done considering how literacy rates are an issue in the city, and they’re also somewhere that’s warm, safe and with access to information and entertainment for all.”

Des Conway, 63, from Sherwood, said: “My whole career has been in libraries across the country including here in the city. I’m retired now but have worked in them for around 32 years.

“We need to defend all the libraries, and we want the council to reverse their decision.

“But we have to wait for the consultation to run its course.”

The city’s main Central Library is closed because its Broad Marsh replacement is not finished.

In January, Labour Councillor Eunice Campbell-Clark, portfolio holder for leisure, culture and schools at Nottingham City Council, said there were “some difficult decisions” to make.

She said: “We have had a strong track record for investing in our library service, but our current financial situation means we have some difficult decisions to make.

“We commissioned research which makes it clear that as well as making savings to ensure we have a service that is financially sustainable, we need to adapt our libraries so they meet the needs of the future.

“The pandemic has served to accelerate a move to online library resources in Nottingham as elsewhere and, so while we know that libraries are often well-loved community resources, sadly some are under-used as people’s habits change.

“We wouldn’t choose to close down community libraries but I remain committed to having a strong, professionally staffed library service that can provide support, give guidance and enable all our residents to access books, digital resources, provide learning, and development opportunities.

“If the proposals are taken forward, I would encourage people to get involved in the consultation and give us their views and opinions around whether what we are proposing will provide the future library service we need in Nottingham.”

Under the proposals, the council would close Basford Library in Vernon Road, the Radford Lenton Library in Lenton Boulevard and Aspley Library in Nuthall Road.

While Aspley Library would close to the public, it would become what has been described as a ‘distribution point’, providing services such as a home library and mobile outreach services.

People who regularly use Basford Library have previously spoken of the importance in keeping it open.

In total there are 15 public libraries, 11 of which are in the community and three in service centres.

The central library in Angel Row closed in 2020, the books from which remain in storage while a new central library is built.

It is hoped the new central library, on the Greater Broad Marsh site, will be fitted out “very soon”.

According to council figures the three libraries proposed for closure had some of the lowest visitor numbers of the estate.

There were 22,680 annual visits to Basford Library, 7,920 visits at the Radford and Lenton library and 38,820 visits in Aspley.

The plans come as the council strives to meet its legal duty to balance its books, all while under continued scrutiny from the Government following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.

It comes after the city council revealed additional services which face the chop following a lengthy consultation over its budget.

It will now seek to close five children’s centres instead of six – while the authority is proposing to hike tenants’ rent by 4.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the auditor which accused the city council of ‘institutional blindness’ upon the downfall of Robin Hood Energy will revisit its risk assessment of the Labour-run authority after unlawful payments were uncovered, with “significant weaknesses” having been found in three areas.


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