Big Society proposals for the future of Oxfordshire's libraries
Oxfordshire County Council is asking local communities to come up with innovative ideas to run their local libraries as it proposes to cease funding 20 of the 43 facilities that currently operate in the county, with possible further changes to service levels in future years.
Following the Government's Spending Review and cuts in funding to local authorities, Oxfordshire County Council currently calculates that it will have to save around £155m up to 2015. These savings will need to be made across all of its services and the library service is one of the areas that will have to contribute to making that saving. The council is already on target to make £35m of savings in 2010/11 with a pay freeze and driving down the costs of contracts with suppliers contributing to this.
What is the vision for the future of libraries?
Proposals have been formulated around a clear vision of providing library hubs centred on key areas of population in Oxfordshire with a quality support network of mobile library services and an extension of the library loan service to include e-books and e-audio downloads, so people can get the books they want direct to their home PCs. Residents will continue to be able to go online and order books from an online catalogue. The books can be delivered either to the nearest library hub or to the village/town by the mobile library service for users to collect.
In formulating proposals for a new way forward there has been a strong emphasis on the comparative quality of the public transport links that enable local communities to reach libraries in individual localities and geographical spread. Usage figures have also been considered.
Are these the final proposals?
Details could yet change when more information becomes available on Local Government Settlement Day - the day when all
councils learn in detail what their grant funding from central Government will be in future years. Oxfordshire County Council receives 65 per cent of its funding from central Government. UK
Similar proposals elsewhere
Changes to the delivery of library services are also being proposed by councils all over the UK - amongst others, authorities in Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Camden and Leeds have recently made proposals for change in response to changed financial circumstances following the Government's Spending Review.
Cash to help innovative ideas
In line with the Government's Big Society agenda, Oxfordshire County Council is to set up a pot of money to which local communities can bid for funds to help them take responsibility for any library that the council is seeking to end funding.
This would see services shaped by community needs and possibly hosted by partner organisations offering space in community buildings such as, children’s centres, community centres, schools and health centres.
Councillor Keith Mitchell, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "We have a clear vision to have a quality, core network of libraries based on centres of population. These will still be run by the council and they will be supplemented by mobile libraries.
"In line with the Government's Big Society agenda, we are very keen to hear from local communities and organisations who may wish to take on the running of local libraries and we believe there will be enthusiasm from people who wish to get involved.
"We have agonised over these proposals and I am sure we will agonise some more as our budget position changes when more information on exact funding details is received from
. However, by announcing the thrust of what we intend at this early stage, we hope that communities have the opportunity to digest and respond to our invitation for them to get involved. I look forward to imaginative ideas coming forward from local people Whitehall
"Public transport links have made up a large part of our thinking in deciding which libraries we should continue funding. Such links are far better in some areas of Oxfordshire than others - the city of
being an example. Oxford
"Our current network of libraries is based entirely on historical legacy. If we were starting from scratch in setting up a brand new Oxfordshire library service, it would not look like the current structure."
Which libraries will see funding cease?
A total of 82 per cent of library visits take place to the 23 libraries that are currently proposed for continued funding by the county council.
Summertown, Headington, Littlemore, Old Marston and Blackbird Leys in
would see funding discontinued as would Neithrop in Banbury. Oxford
Adderbury, Bampton, Benson, Berinsfield, Botley, Charlbury, Chinnor, Deddington, Grove, Kennington, North Leigh, Sonning Common, Stonesfield and Woodcote would also see funding cease with opportunities for the community to take over their running.
When will funding cease?
Funding will be phased out during the 2011/12 financial year although there is no exact timetable at the moment. Any further funding changes will be announed in future financial years.