The proposed changes to library services are still 'the way forward'
Leading councillors asked to approve plans for a new-look library service.
In December 2013, the council’s executive agreed to proposals for changes to the library service, in light of changes in the way libraries are used and the authority’s substantially reduced budget. However, this move was subsequently challenged in the High Court.
Although the judge agreed that the council’s plans would meet its legal duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service, he did highlight shortcomings in the way the decision was reached.
Now, following additional work over the autumn, officers are recommending that councillors again endorse the plans that were previously agreed.
Under the proposals, the council would continue to provide 15 major libraries, along with online services, mobile libraries and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of, for instance, disability, age or ill health.
These would be complemented by up to 40 community hubs, including library services, developed in partnership with local community groups. Not only will these groups receive ongoing professional support, they will also be given over £5,000 per year towards their running costs and access to a one-off grant of up to £15,000 for changes to buildings or equipment.
In addition, officers are now recommending the council undertakes a competitive procurement to seek an external organisation to potentially deliver these services on its behalf, including the support for the community hubs. This follows an approach by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), a not-for-profit organisation interested in running local libraries.
Cllr Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “Officers have put in a lot of work to address the issues raised during the court case.
“Having done so, they still believe the model previously agreed by the executive is the right way forward.
“Volunteers would be at the heart of that new-look service, and we have been keeping in close contact with those that have come forward as things developed.
“Because of the challenge from GLL, the executive will also be asked to look at potentially outsourcing our side of things.
“In light of the work that involves, it’s likely to take until the end of 2015 before a final decision is reached on who will run the service.
“I look forward to the views of the scrutiny committee and the debate at the executive meeting. However, I’m confident that the ultimate outcome will be a comprehensive and efficient service that meets the needs of residents.”
The recommendation will be discussed at a meeting of the Community and Public Safety Committee on 27 January. A final decision will then be taken at a meeting of the council’s executive on 3 February.
An outline of the proposed model is available to download below, along with the full committee report..
For details on the earlier stages of the consultation, please follow the links below.