By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Councillors have criticised their own authority’s consultation into the potential closure of three Nottingham libraries.
The City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee discussed the proposal to close libraries in Aspley, Basford and Radford/Lenton, for more than an hour and a half on Tuesday, August 3.
The closures would save the authority £233,000 over the next three years. Locals have staged protests outside the libraries.
Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis (Lab), portfolio holder for libraries, told the committee there were 2,979 responses to a resident consultation, with five public engagement sessions attracting 220 attendees.
He said “no stone would be left unturned” to see if the affected libraries could be taken over by interested parties including community groups.
But Cllr Georgia Power (Lab) said under-represented groups and schools had not been properly consulted on the proposals.
She called on the council to review its consultation process as part of a series of recommendations that will be fed back to the council’s leadership team.
“There are a lot of lessons that can be learnt. It was a mistake not to engage properly with all schools,” she added.
Committee members also asked whether the authority could find itself part of a judicial review on the way it consulted the public.
A judicial review is a type of court proceedings in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.
Council officers said the authority had done everything it could to engage with as many people as possible and a decision on the three libraries had not yet been finalised.
Labour councillors Anne Peach and Hassan Ahmed, who represent the Radford area, have also criticised their own party’s proposals. They are calling for the Radford/Lenton library to be saved.
The two councillors say the library is in an area of deprivation and shutting it will rip out “the heart and soul of the local community”.
Cllr Peach said: “I represent the Radford ward. There is no other community facility in the Radford ward other than the library and there will be nothing in the ward when that closes.”
She said asking residents to walk 20 minutes to the Hyson Green Library was unreasonable.
Cllr Corall Jenkins (Lab) was also concerned that Strelley Library was the nearest library for Aspley residents if it closes.
“You would have to take two different buses – how is that being considered?
“Given the cost of living crisis and levels of deprivation (in these areas) there has not been much given to the added pressure of using another library elsewhere. Earning levels should have been taken into consideration.”
Cllr Andrew Rule, opposition leader of the Conservative Group, added: “We are going to see another round of energy increases. Community assets are going to be crucial to help people get through this. You might make a saving but pass the cost onto another direction of the council.”
The council says alternative proposals are currently being explored, including:
- A ‘community delivery model’ – This involves a library being managed by community partners or volunteers.
- Shared use of community buildings – This involves a shared use of Nottingham City Council owned and managed local community buildings operating a library offer within a shared space.
- Asset transfer to a third party – Through sale or long-term lease, that could include the provision for a publicly accessible library offer.
- Technology Enabled Opening (TEO) – This will enable a library to be accessible while unstaffed on site. Entry to the library would be via a library card and Pin, with CCTV aiding security and self-service machines/computers to allow usage without staff.
- Redistribution of opening hours across the network, reducing the hours the libraries are open to the public to make savings.