Library earmarked for closure as councillors look to close budget gap of £14m
A library looks likely to close and others may have reduced staffing as councillors look to close a “budget gap” of £14 million.
Mile Oak library is earmarked for closure – a move that could save Brighton and Hove City Council £35,000 a year, according to a budget report.
Last year the council explored moving the library, in Chalky Road, Portslade, into a room in the nearby sports centre, which was being used by two snooker leagues.
It is currently based in the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) but the number of visitors has plummeted.
According to the budget report, just 150 people visit Mile Oak library a month, compared with 3,500 five years ago and as many as 1,000 a month before the coronavirus pandemic.
Visitor numbers have fallen across Brighton and Hove, the report said, but other community libraries have 60 per cent of their pre-Covid traffic whereas Mile Oak has just 16 per cent.
And, the report said, Mile Oak library was the most expensive to run at a cost of £19.02 per visit while other community libraries cost 78p a visit.
If it closed, the report said, residents could use Portslade library, in Old Shoreham Road, or Hangleton library, in West Way.
Independent councillor Peter Atkinson, who represents North Portslade, has asked for more detail about the visitor numbers.
He also wants to know what happened to proposals for a community hub in the area, which could house the library, or the option of regular mobile library visits.
Cllr Atkinson said: “Residents may remember that last year it was suggested that the Mile Oak library might move to the sports centre.
“This did not go ahead as it would have led to the closure of the very popular and well-used snooker club.
“That said, during these discussions, the possibility of a ‘community hub’ for North Portslade was raised. It was mentioned that the library could eventually be moved into this once it was established.
“I’ve asked the council if the community hub plans have been progressed with at all.”
Independent councillor Anne Pissaridou, who also represents North Portslade, is also pursuing the issue and has submitted an amendment to the budget to remove the closure.
The council has proposed saving a further £76,000 by cutting the staffing at all community libraries to two days a week.
At other times, they would operate using the Libraries Extra service which permits people to visit libraries even when they are unstaffed.
The budget proposals also include a plan to close Hove library on Saturdays so that it would be open for just five days a week.
The budget report said that the café in the library had closed because of poor takings – and on Saturdays fewer rooms were hired.
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Libraries are a statutory service required by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Councils are required to deliver a “comprehensive and efficient service” and to lend books and written materials free of charge.
Brighton and Hove has 14 libraries. They are forecast to have more than a million visits this year.
The council is trying to plug a budget gap of £14 million – down from a previous estimate of £21 million.
Overall, most Brighton and Hove households can expect a 5.2 per cent increase in their council tax bills when the East Sussex Fire Authority and the Sussex police and crime commissioner’s precepts are included.
If councillors vote for the proposed 4.99 per cent council tax rise in two weeks’ time, the bill for a typical band D property will rise by £109.60 from £2,118.31 to £2,227.91 for the coming 2023-24 financial year.