By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
Campaigners say they are concerned after Nottingham City Council documents revealed it would be exploring the idea of merging some libraries and leisure centres in the future as a way to save money.
The Labour-run authority’s Communities, Environment and Resident Services (CERS) are currently undergoing a ‘best value review’ to make sure they are being delivered in a cost effective way.
Community Protection, Regulatory Services as well as leisure and libraries will be included in the review.
The council says it is anticipated savings of around £6.4m could be made through changes by the end of the 2024/25 financial year, as it looks to set a balanced budget amid difficult financial conditions in local government across the country.
It is currently forecasting a budget gap of £26m this year and £58.7m over the next four-year period.
Council documents, published ahead of a Communities and Environment Scrutiny Committee meeting on November 8, say the authority will “explore opportunities for co-location of libraries, leisure centres and community centres to achieve economies of scale”.
The wording has prompted concern from campaign group Save Nottingham Libraries.
The group began its campaign to save the Basford, Aspley and Radford-Lenton Libraries from closure in January 2022, when the council planned to put them to the axe to set a balanced budget.
Des Conway, speaking on behalf of the group, said: “The review papers for the Communities and Environment Scrutiny Committee do not bode well for the future.
“Talk on page 17 of the main report that libraries and leisure centres could share spaces is just a way of saving money.
“I think it’s worth pointing out that option is not available in Radford where NCC closed the much-loved but under-funded John Carroll Leisure Centre in spring 2021.
“The Save Nottingham Libraries campaign stressed that the beautiful, historic libraries, like the ones earmarked for closure in Aspley, Basford and Radford, were important community hubs.
“Not just offering access to books and knowledge, but also available for local groups such as knit and natter and homework clubs.
“I think all the libraries which make up the portfolio across the city are important, but don’t think the rather soulless libraries in the joint service centres get the juices flowing like the gorgeous art-deco library at Aspley or the Carnegie Library branches in Basford, The Meadows and Radford do.
“Going through the domed entrance door into The Meadows Library on Wilford Grove is like going through a portal into a different world, opening up the minds and imagination of children and adults alike.
“The campaign will keep a close eye on these background discussions and be prepared to relaunch should any detrimental proposals be formalised by the Full Council over the coming months.”
Documents also point to further changes in how services are delivered to reduce staff costs.
They add the council will look to “reduce staff costs further by embedding new technology to support self-service opportunities and embrace fully volunteer-led facilities.”
The documents will be discussed further on November 8.