The consultation on the re-structuring of the City’s libraries closes today. The Council’s preferred Option (B) does not stand up to much financial scrutiny…there is a questionable £400k gap. The solution is high risk and unlikely to deliver the continuity and quality of service required by the residents.
The problem with the Council’s claimed savings.
The Council proposed 4 options:
Option A declares a saving of £967k by closing 11 libraries
- The total cost of each individual library, staff costs, local expenses £572k ( per FOI)
- Central costs of repairing/maintaining buildings / IT infrastructure etc ~ £400k. This will be saved as 11 of the 15 libraries will be fully de-commissioned.
Option B declares a saving of £648k by converting the same 11 into Community Managed libraries, rather than closing them down
- As above, less £319k which is the cost of individual grants to the 11 libraries and recruitment of 2.5 central staff
- It still assumes that the central £400k will be saved despite the fact that the Council will continue to be responsible for building maintenance and IT infrastructure of the 11 libraries.
Option C also declares a saving of £648k by closing only 5 libraries
- The total saving of the 5 libraries closed – £250k
- Central costs of repairing/maintaining buildings / IT infrastructure etc ~ £400k
- It is difficult to see how all of the £400k could be saved when 6 of the 11 libraries remain open
Option D also declares a saving of £648k by converting 7 of the 11 into Community Managed libraries
- The total saving from the 7 libraries converted- £381k
- Central costs of repairing/maintaining buildings / IT infrastructure etc ~ £400k, again doesn’t make sense
- Less ~ £130k for individual grants and 1.5 support staff.
The only option that can sensibly save the £400k central costs is Option A. The claimed savings for the Council’s preferred Option B are significantly overstated by ~ £400k. The correct figure should be nearer £250k for the savings from Option B, not £648k
Issues with Option B :
- Redundancy of 25-30 staff
- Assumption that all 11 can be converted to Community Managed libraries, and that people from the local area will come forward to run them in their entirety.
Community Managed ( Definition by Locality)
These are community-led and largely community delivered, rarely with paid staff, but often with some form of ongoing Council support and often still part of the public library network
- It assumes that significant money can be raised in the community to fund the cost gap from the outset.
- High likelihood that costs will not be saved, or delayed or libraries will close due to lack of volunteers.
- Risks over continuity and quality of service.
Alternative approach to saving £250k+ (Option E)
- Convert 9 libraries (inc Alvaston / Pear Tree) to Community Supported libraries
Community Supported ( Definition by Locality)
These are Council-led and funded, usually with paid professional staff, but given significant support by volunteers
- Existing staff to remain in place, initially, but supported by community volunteer committee responsible for cost management / fund raising. Over time, as staff leave, they could be replaced by volunteers – if the group has matured.
- Committee to be responsible for all costs incurred by the library, except building and infrastructure, at no increase to existing budget which would generate savings (£80k). These costs are currently paid centrally:
- Cleaning ~£30k – covered by volunteers
- Stationery / computer consumables – ~£20k – control usage / charge a fair price – so cost neutral
- Staff cover for holidays/sickness – volunteers. ~£30k
- Target cost savings on base library budget of an incremental 10% pa for 3 years / income generation ( local sponsorship) – £50kpa for 3 years – £150k
- The 4 smallest libraries ( Allenton / Mackworth / Springwood / Derwent) to either:
- Close – saving £110k
- Convert to Community Managed libraries ( or could have joint link/management with library in the vicinity) – saving £70k
- The consultation assumes that all £400k central costs will be saved which is a major flaw in its case. However a proper review of the genuine recurring costs of providing the service in the context of semi-autonomous Community Supported libraries could save at least 10-15% ~£50k
Why is Option E better than Option B
- The transition to a new structure is more controlled and more likely to be successful
- Improves chances that all libraries will continue to provide a service
- Engages local community / talent in the service without the full burden of a Community Managed library
- Option exists to move to full autonomy over time if local committee wishes / capable.
- Greater chance that cost will be taken out of the system and savings actually achieved – especially central costs.
- More likely that local sponsors will become involved if supported by Council – lesser risk.
- Not extending opening hours for Alvaston / Pear Tree / Local Studies / Riverside – save ~ £130k against Option B.
The expected savings in the consultation (Options B-D) are a significant over-estimate and don’t recognise the cost burden of still being responsible for 11 buildings, and the IT infrastructure. The transition to 11 Community Managed libraries is a significant risk to the continuity of the service and/or the timeliness of the cost saving. A different implementation strategy, involving Community Supported libraries(Option E), would give a greater likelihood of realising savings earlier, and being more effective.