Concern raised on future of libraries in Staffordshire

Fears have been raised over the burden being placed on volunteers as it emerged community organisations will be asked to run libraries in a county.

Concern raised on future of libraries in Staffordshire

More than half of Staffordshire's libraries will no longer be run by the county council, under proposals which will save £1.3 million over three years.

Councillors and union bosses today said they were 'very concerned' by the proposals and expressed fears over the expectations being placed on volunteers.

The full impact on library staff has not yet been revealed at this stage but council chiefs admit positions will be at risk if proposals go ahead. Libraries earmarked as suitable to be run by community groups are Brereton, Heath Hayes, Hednesford, Norton Canes, Brewood and Cheslyn Hay. Others are Great Wyrley, Kinver, Penkridge, Baswich, Gnosall, Holmcroft and Rising Brook.

Cannock Chase Council leader George Adamson, who represents the Hednesford ward, said: "I am very concerned about the future of our libraries," he said.

"There are only so many volunteers in the world and the county council seems to expect them to run county council services.

"They have recently decided to close all the youth centres so they can be run by volunteers and charities.

"My concern is people will turn out to start with and in a year or two will they still want to? They get a lot of abuse and have to turn up in all sorts of weather."

The move also sparked concern for South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson, who said libraries are an important part of the community, especially for young and elderly people.

"They are often the centre and hub of a local community and that is certainly the case in Brewood," he said.

And union bosses said there were concerns over jobs and the future of the service.

Staffordshire Unison branch secretary Steve Elsey said: "The situation remains incredibly unclear. They are being non-committal on job losses."

Staffordshire County Council says library users and residents are being invited to shape the future direction of their libraries as part of a consultation. taffordshire County Council bosses insist the way people use libraries is changing and they are adapting to meet that shifting demand and safeguard the service for the future. Councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for children, localism and communities, said: "While communities love their libraries the way people use them is changing. We want to act now so that they remain relevant and popular for years to come."

"Library usage is falling in particular as more people go online to read, find information or socialise. We need to respond to that so we want communities to have a bigger say in what they want from their local library and to tell us how they want to be involved."

A total of 24 libraries would be run by volunteers, under the proposals.

Four libraries would be classed as 'libraries extra' – or centres of excellence with the widest range of services. These are Lichfield, Tamworth, Burton and Newcastle.

Fifteen would be classed as 'core libraries', or ones where a range of services are provided by the county council. This includes Cannock, Rugeley, Codsall, Perton, Wombourne, Eccleshall, Stafford and Stone. Those run by community organisations would be reclassed as local libraries.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News