Next steps for Modern Libraries programme – Scrutiny panel endorses Bath Library plans, Cabinet to consider response to Community Libraries

A scrutiny panel on Bath & North East Somerset Council has endorsed plans to integrate Bath’s Library and One Stop in one location at the Podium.

The panel’s decision means that plans to bring together Bath’s Library and One Stop under one roof can now move ahead.

At a meeting on Monday 13th November, the authority’s Communities, Transport & Environment scrutiny panel met to consider the two call-ins – one relating to the decision to integrate Bath’s Library and One Stop Shop services, and the other relating to plans for a network of community-run libraries across the area.

After hearing arguments from the Councillors who led the call-ins, as well as evidence from the Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, Councillors ultimately voted to dismiss the call-in relating to Bath Library and allow the plans to proceed.

As well as modernising the service to make it sustainable for the future, by integrating library and customer services in one location the Council hopes to reach more people from all ages and backgrounds – providing a place where everyone in the community can access support, knowledge, culture and events.

Commenting on the plans for Bath Library and One Stop Shop, Cllr Karen Warrington (Cons), the Council’s Cabinet Member for Transformation & Customer Services, said:

“The plans for Bath Library are a key part of our Modern Libraries programme, which aims to make our area’s library service sustainable for the future and ensure that it meets the needs of today’s library users.

I’m therefore pleased that, having listened to the arguments and evidence presented, the Scrutiny Panel decided to endorse the Council’s plans to integrate Bath’s Library and One Stop Shop and the Podium.

“This decision will allow us to move forward with the process of appointing specialist architects who will engage with service users, staff and other stakeholders on the design for the integrated Library and One Stop Shop. I believe this presents an exciting opportunity to deliver a 21st century facility that meets with the changing way in which people are increasingly using libraries, and I’m confident that any concerns some people have about the space and layout can be addressed through this design process.

“Sadly, I think that for some opposition councillors the call-in of the Bath Library plans had more to do party-politicking than finding genuine solutions to make our library service sustainable.  However, hopefully we can now move forward and work together on these plans in the interests of residents.”

Whilst endorsing the plans for Bath Library, the scrutiny panel raised concerns over aspects of the Council’s proposals for community-run libraries and asked that the Cabinet look again at these issues.  In deciding to uphold the Community Libraries call-in, the panel asked that more consultation be undertaken on the proposals; that more work be done to ascertain the appetite for this approach; and that the certainty over the future of the Mobile Library be put in writing.

On Community Libraries, Councillor Warrington commented:

“As a library user myself, I know just how valued our local library service is. That’s why I’m determined we do everything we can to find innovative ways to keep our libraries open, whilst at the same time delivering the savings we need to make.

“The proposals for community-run libraries have been based upon best-practice examples from across the country, as well our as own experience of supporting the community libraries that already exist several locations here in B&NES.

“However, the Cabinet will consider carefully the points raised by the Panel in relation to the Community Libraries programme and whether and how these might be addressed before deciding upon the best way forward for this aspect of the Modern Libraries programme.”

Altogether the Council’s Modern Libraries programme aims to deliver up to £800,000 a year in savings whilst maintaining library provision across the area.