Dudley Council cuts: Volunteers to run libraries

Libraries and the archives service in Dudley will be run by volunteers under cost-cutting council plans.

Dudley Council cuts: Volunteers to run libraries

A not for profit organisation will be set up next year to save Dudley Council £200,000 a year, it has been revealed.

It will involve members of the public taking over the management of the sites.

Council chiefs have already announced that opening hours of libraries and the archives service will be slashed as the authority looks to save £20m over three years.

The new Community Benefit Society model has been agreed in principle by the council's cabinet.

Consultation between staff and public began on November 18 and will go on until February 19, 2016.

Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for adult and community learning, said: "These are unprecedented times for Dudley council with continuous reductions in funding from national government putting intense pressure on local services.

"As part of the council's budget reductions, libraries, archives and adult learning have to achieve a target of 30 per cent savings.

"The mutual model would be a positive outcome from a trying situation, bringing staff, residents and council officers together to deliver an innovative, efficient and sustainable way of working."

The libraries and archives service would continue to be run by professional staff, but would have community, employee and council involvement at board level.

In October, Dudley Council confirmed some library staff will lose their jobs under cost cutting plans. They will be invited to apply for voluntary redundancy after it emerged £20 million needs to saved in the next three years.

In the same month it was announced Dudley Museum and Art Gallery will close, with up to 275 jobs being lost and council tax to rise as part of savage cuts across departments, which also included Dudley Zoo and Castle.

The new arrangement would see all libraries, library links and the archive service remain open, with increased customer self service and reduced staff time.

Some adult and family learning may be relocated to shared venues but would continue to be funded from national budgets allocated to Dudley Council for adult skills and community learning.

Dudley libraries, archives and adult learning are nationally recognised among the best services in the country, being shortlisted for awards and winning accolades.

They attract more than 80,000 people to their activities and events each year, with 23,000 people visiting Dudley libraries each week. The adult learning service provides learning opportunities to more than 6,000 adults at any one time.

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