Express & Star

Sandwell libraries will be run by more volunteers amid council cuts

Libraries in Sandwell will be run by more volunteers as part of cost-cutting plans aimed at saving sites from closure.


Some libraries may also move to share buildings with other services in a bid to save cash.

Sandwell Council has already ruled out closing the sites at Hill Top, West Bromwich; Oakham, Tividale; and Langley, Brandhall and Rounds Green, all Oldbury following a public consultation.

Bosses are now continuing with a review of staffing levels and looking other ways to save money.

Plans will be drawn up by the council and then a second consultation is due to take place with staff, community groups and library users.

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

Council leader Darren Cooper said: "In February cabinet agreed a model which seeks to increase income while meeting budget cuts but avoid any closures. We are looking at sharing spaces with partners, encouraging volunteers and possibly selling things like school text books from libraries so we can maintain these valuable assets."

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.

In March it was revealed that an extra £16 million of cuts will need to be made by the council within the next three years.

A 'Facing the Future' programme was launched last year to find £22m of savings and this will now be extended to achieve cuts of £38m by 2018.

Officials had already been forced to make around £41m of savings between 2015 and 2017 after grants to the council from central Government were reduced.

Council chiefs have reiterated the priority is to protect front line services.

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