Below is the text Cllr George Brown read from last night’s Cabinet meeting, when presenting the latest proposal about what will happen to the Isle of Wight’s library service – Ed.
Since Full Council approved the budget for libraries on 23rd February I have had meetings with a number of Ward Councillors for Cowes, Freshwater, Sandown and Ventnor to gauge local priorities in those towns. There have also been meetings between officers and representatives of potential community groups in other areas where there are existing libraries. As a result I would like to present this Cabinet paper with some updates resulting from work since Full Council.
May I first outline the key points in the paper before you? It is intended to:-
Respond to consultation by:-
- Keeping six main libraries open under Council control for the foreseeable future
- Extending the period of operation in the five smaller libraries to facilitate transfer to community control
- Continue to meet statutory requirements in full
- Reorganise the continuing IW Council Statutory Library Authority to align with the principles of forthcoming localism legislation.
- Devolve management accountability and authority. In the case of libraries that continue to be operated by the IW Council, more autonomy will be given to libraries to engage with their communities, perhaps by working with community management bodies. In emerging community-led libraries devolved budgets will be available, if required, to ensure that the community body, however styled, will be able to determine how the library is run.
- Test self-service equipment on the ground to see whether it would provide any material advantages in library operation. The jury has to remain out on this one until the equipment is given a thorough trial in the IW context.
I know that Cabinet members have absorbed the paper, so I will move, if I may, to those points that have developed since it was published.
At the Full Council Budget meeting an extra £50,000 was provided for libraries in 2011/12 and I would like to explain how we have set about using it to meet local priorities.
For clarity, I would like to make a distinction between larger libraries, which will continue to be operated by IWC without an end date, and smaller libraries where we aim to be able to pass full control to a community group. I refer to these latter as “community libraries” and I would like to explain the ongoing IWC support that we propose to offer to them.
Incidentally, the £50,000 extra funding allocated to libraries by Full Council comes from the New Homes Bonus reward grant, which is expected to run annually for six years; although nothing is certain in grants to local authorities.
Cowes, Freshwater, Sandown and Ventnor
Firstly addressing libraries in Cowes, Freshwater, Sandown and Ventnor, which will all continue to be operated by IWC. In these libraries the principal concern of Ward Councillors has been to find means of securing longer and more flexible opening hours. After careful thought we have used the number of visitors per year to each library as the basis for allocating extra IWC funding.
This may be used by communities to acquire extra hours, or books, or other library-related materials from their budget allocation. If these sums were allocated to the purchase of extra hours alone, it would amount to a further 6.5 hours in Sandown, 4.5 hours in Freshwater, 3.5 hours in Cowes and 3 hours in Ventnor. Communities in these towns could choose to spread these extra hours to achieve more days of opening by, for example, closing at lunch time.
Local library management bodies
If local library management bodies are formed in these towns they may even choose not to take up the extra hours of IWC library operation and spend the money instead on some other form of library expenditure. That is the whole point of community engagement.
ICT for Bembridge, Brighstone, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin
That remark bridges into the five, or more, community libraries, which I defined earlier on. Our aim here is to provide up to £10k across the libraries in Bembridge, Brighstone, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin for ICT licences and internet connectivity. We also intend to allocate £4,000 each to community libraries in Bembridge, East Cowes and Shanklin in 2011/12 and £2,000 each to Brighstone and Niton. IWC will manage the transfer of funding gradually, to allow community bodies to establish and mature. IWC officers will therefore work with communities to ensure that the money is spent within agreed parameters, designed to secure a sustainable community library.
Cabinet members; I have gone into these additional supporting mechanisms in some detail to indicate how we are moving towards community engagement in all Island libraries.
Before I move the recommendations, I would like to respond to questions that we have been asked several times by members of the public about meeting our statutory obligations. We understand that the Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey MP, asked civil servants to keep a watch on the Isle of Wight after we moved into public consultation in January.
Since we have developed our proposals the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has told us that the Council may be invited to take part in a national study of innovative approaches to library provision; the specific area of interest being the devolution of authority to community bodies outlined in Option C.
A new Option that proposes policy relating to the additional budget allocation of £50,000 has been circulated this evening. May I read it, please, together with all the recommended options in Paper B.
READ RECOMMENDATION ON PAGE B-16
An additional £50,000 revenue funding would be provided to enable communities to purchase extra hours, books or additional library materials in IWC-operated libraries. This would provide for response to community priorities and support local control over library purchasing. This funding would support community engagement in all libraries on the Island. The sum of £50,000 would also pay for basic ICT and data communications in community libraries.