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Councils announce more cuts to library services

Local authorities in England and Wales are trimming budgets and reducing opening hours

Library campaigners were handed more bad news this week when local authorities announced more austerity measures to cut back on cherished services.

The Big Issue’s #WhyBooksMatter campaign has fought to keep libraries open and champion greater literacy, winning support from authors, publishers and reading organisations.

But library users in east England were devastated when North East Lincolnshire Council unveiled its plan to slash libraries opening hours across the area, including the closure of four libraries completely one day a week.

“We need to provide a modern-day library service that makes the best use of the decreasing budget available,” councillor Jane Hyldon-King, the local authority’s portfolio holder for libraries, told The Grimsby Telegraph.

“People are changing the way they access the library services and what they access when they are there.”

Meanwhile, Powys County Council in Wales has announced plans to cut £250,000 on its library service over the next two years. The cuts could affect 11 libraries, with council bosses looking at “community partnerships” to keep the venues running.

And in Newport in south Wales, a new report has revealed opening hours fell 22% last year after the council’s library services budget fell by 10%.

All of us who value libraries’ rich and varied contribution must provide clear and compelling evidence of their impact

Librarian Ian Anstice, who runs the Public Libraries News website, has estimated that 500 libraries in the UK are now run by voluntary groups.

And recent figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) show the number of paid, professional librarian positions fell by just under 1,000 in the last financial year.

Despite all the cuts, a recent Carnegie Trust UK survey of 10,000 people revealed the number of young people using libraries across the UK has increased over the last five years.

Martyn Evans, chief executive of Carnegie UK Trust, said: “All of us who value libraries’ rich and varied contribution to our wellbeing must provide clear and compelling evidence of their impact if future investment is to be secured.”

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