By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
A councillor has promised to do all he can to protect Nottingham’s libraries from closure amid impending cuts.
Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis (Lab), the portfolio holder for leisure, culture and planning, says a further consultation period is expected to take place over proposed cuts to Nottingham’s libraries service amid the risk of a legal challenge.
Nottingham City Council has proposed a raft of cuts to jobs and services in a bid to fill a £53m budget gap in the year beginning April 2024.
The Labour-run authority is also facing an in-year gap of £23m, which resulted in the issuing of a Section 114 ‘bankruptcy’ notice at the end of November last year.
The proposed cuts could result in up to 554 job being slashed, public transport cuts and the closure of community centres, libraries and in-house care facilities.
During a Communities and Environment Scrutiny Committee on February 7 the impacts on the communities, environment and resident services were discussed.
Some of the proposed cuts include a review of the libraries service, which could result in 31 job losses, to save £1.5m, as well as reviewing green spaces and community centres.
Cuts to community protection, which would save £3m but result in 63 job losses, and the stoppage of funding to the cultural sector have also been planned.
“This has been one of the most difficult budget cycles that we’ve ever seen in the council and that is not an understatement,” said Cllr Kotsonis.
“We have to some extent seen, in my opinion, a lot of suspension of democracy.
“Those proposals that have been put forward in this budget cycle do not have the approval of portfolio holders and councillors. It’s a very, very difficult budget and it reflects a Tory Government that continues to underfund local government and this is the outcome.
“In terms of my portfolio the unfortunate aspect of what happens to leisure and culture is those are areas that the Government has legislated to consider to a large extent discretionary.
“I say they are invaluable to our communities.”
A public consultation into the proposed cuts ended in January and final proposals are expected to be presented at the next Full Council.
Cllr Kotsonis says further consultation into specific cuts, particularly to libraries, are expected going forward once announced.
Colin Parr, the corporate director for communities, environment and resident services, admitted there is a “clear risk of legal challenge”.
“I would agree these are some of the most difficult proposals from across those discussed in the directorate,” he added.
“These are valuable community assets.
“A number [of the proposals] will be subject to much more detailed, further consultations as the details of the proposals emerge, and in some of those areas such as libraries there is a clear risk of legal challenge as well.”
The proposed cuts to the libraries service come after the Aspley, Basford and Radford-Lenton libraries were saved having been earmarked for closure as part of budget proposals in January 2022.
Campaign group Save Nottingham Libraries managed to help ward off the cuts, and the council consequently protected them through a staffing restructure and a reduction in library opening hours instead.
“We succeeded in saving three libraries and it was a big victory, but we are now in a different space which is much more difficult,” Cllr Kotsonis added.
“What I can promise is I will put in all my efforts and do all I can to protect them.”