Mayor confirms plan to keep all 27 libraries open - for now
The controversial policy to cut costs and close 17 of Bristol’s 27 libraries has been withdrawn in a surprise announcement on June 19 from Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees.
Confirming remarks on local radio earlier in the day, Marvin Rees issued a statement:
“Thanks to my all-Labour administration’s responsibility with council taxpayers’ money, we have found a way to safeguard funds and use reserves to cover the £1.4 million annual shortfall caused by the former Mayor’s overspend and continuing cuts from the Conservative government in Westminster.
“Next week a cabinet report will be published setting out plans for how my administration can invest to keep every single library in Bristol open. We are looking forward to continuing to work with local community groups and councillors to transform and modernise our library service into the future, building on the work of local Labour Councillors Estella Tincknell and Jo Sergeant – both former branch librarians.”
Strong campaigns have been mounted over the last year since a review of the Library Service reported that just nine libraries would be retained. Henleaze Library was selected to remain open but some frequently used and well-loved libraries like Westbury-on-Trym and Redland were under threat of closure. Westbury Library Group are one of many community groups who have lobbied to keep Westbury Library open and obtained a concession that it may do due to the recent Extended Access facility.
Malcolm Neave from Westbury Library Group commented: “We welcome this decision by the Mayor to continue support for ALL Bristol libraries, which is a notable change from previous Council statements which implied that the "Central + nine area possibly + three Extended Access libraries" was the only solution being considered.
“While noting that this only gives a stay of execution for 18 months, it does give the Council time to come forward with proposals which would retain a comprehensive library service.”
Local councillor Geoff Gollop has campaigned for many years to Westbury-on-Trym library open and is keen to see a more long term solution for the service. He said: "The Library Group in Westbury had two very clear aims - to maintain the service for the whole of Bristol and to retain the Library facility in Bristol. It appears that we now have two years to get our campaign together to sustain our libraries beyond 2020. I am reluctant to comment more until I see the small print.”
Alan Aburrow, Joint chairman of the Westbury Community Forum added: “This Mayoral U-turn is obviously good news, not only for Westbury but also city wide. However, as always, the devil is in the detail and for the moment one can only speculate as to where the money is coming from. What services will have to be sacrificed in order to finance this U-turn?”