Five under-threat Sandwell libraries saved from axe

Five libraries in Sandwell which were at risk of closure as part of cost-cutting plans have been saved from the axe.

Sandwell Council has ruled out shutting the sites at Hill Top, West Bromwich; Oakham, Tividale; and Langley, Brandhall and Rounds Green, all Oldbury.

But some could move to share buildings with other services while extra volunteers could also be recruited to help run them.

While libraries could also start selling school text books in a bid to raise cash.

Members of the cabinet will be asked tonight to approve the next stage of the plans, which would see all of the libraries remain open.

It means department bosses will now move forward with reviewing staffing levels and looking at whether libraries should move to alternative sites.

The council says it needs to save £700,000 from the library budget over the next two years.

Deputy leader of Sandwell Council Councillor Mahboob Hussain, said: “Significant government cuts to our budget means we have to look at different ways of providing services including our libraries.

"The model we are putting forward means no closures providing it is successful.

"We are looking at sharing spaces with partners, encouraging volunteers and possibly selling things like school text books from libraries in order to maintain these valuable assets to our communities.

"Any further decision on each library would only be made following more consultation.”

In a report going before cabinet members tonight, neighbourhoods director Adrian Scarrott is recommending 'that the approach to deliver library services which are professionally managed, supported by partners and volunteers, in spaces that are shared with other organisations, as a way of avoiding library closures and changes to service provision, be endorsed'.

A consultation took place earlier this year with staff, library users and community groups.

The options looked at included converting them into smaller ‘express’ libraries and moving them to different sites with staff provided by other organisations.

It also considered moving them to alternative premises, keeping them open on the same sites but either run by more volunteers or with sharing the buildings with other services. The final option was to keep them the same.

During the consultation, library managers met with more than 150 people at five public meetings as well as 75 members of friends’ group to get views on the proposals.

Sixty-two written responses were received to the consultation including some from residents and councillors.

They also consulted 15 organisations including Agewell, Black Country Housing Group, Black Country Touring, Health for Living, National Careers Service, Sandwell Visually Impaired Group and University of the Third Age.

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