Bradford Council opens consultation on new funding proposals for libraries service

Bradford Council has now started a public consultation exercise about the future direction of its Libraries Service.

Thanks to new proposed council investment and a push to secure more external funding, the Council has confirmed that there is no longer a need to meet the savings previously required in the libraries service, nor reduce the service while it develops plans for the future.  All 29 library locations will keep their service.

The Council is also pleased to announce that a further investment of £100,000 will be made into the Community Managed libraries extending the agreement with them for a further 12 months.

In the last 12 months Bradford Council has engaged and consulted with the district in order to gather the thoughts of residents on the Council’s Libraries.   

This has been very successful and the Council has, as a result, received over 3000 responses.  All the evidence shows that the Council currently provides a comprehensive district-wide offer that delivers a valuable service for the district’s local communities.

However, the current model on its own is not financially sustainable in the long term and the feedback indicates that residents expect to see libraries evolving and being more connected to communities.

This has played a huge role in informing the decision the Council is now taking on libraries.

When Bradford Council started on the journey to review the service 12 months ago, it was faced with some big challenges including an agreed savings target of £1.05m to achieve in 2020-21. 

There was also an acknowledgement that the role of libraries in our communities has been changing over the last decade with libraries becoming much more than book-lending facilities.

They now provide a range of services covering literacy, early years support, health and wellbeing, digital access and support, and a range of creative and cultural opportunities. However, at the same time library usage has reduced in the district and across the UK.

Libraries are now seen as more than a traditional ‘library service’ where people go to read and loan books. They are places where learning and personal enrichment take place and they have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our residents, as well as wider priorities across the district.

In recognition of these wider impacts, in particular in improving health outcomes, tackling poverty, addressing social isolation, assisting people back into employment, and helping with school readiness, the Council is exploring wider funding opportunities which would help support ambitions for a sustainable library service which meets the needs of local communities.

Bradford Council has therefore re-assessed its budget considerations and savings of £1.05m which were required for 2020-21 are now being partly met by a base budget investment of £700k from Public Health, subject to approval following consultation.

The funding will be on-going and used to support a change in how the Council delivers libraries in the district. Bradford Council is currently exploring other avenues for further new funding.

It means that the Council can develop plans for the future without needing to achieve immediate savings which will allow the Council to retain its existing network of 29 libraries in current locations, although in a minority of places this might mean that it has to consider using different buildings which are more suitable for future aspirations and enhancement of services for example in Baildon where the Ian Clough Hall development which contains the library is due to be developed.  

It also provides the opportunity to consult further with the people of Bradford District about how this investment will be used at both a district and local level which will result in us achieving the best possible outcomes for residents.

Looking ahead, the information and feedback gathered by our various listening exercises has been used to develop a refreshed “vision statement” and “delivery model” for the library service which will set out a new strategic direction for the service beyond 2021.

If agreed this new model will mean that the Council can continue to provide the same levels of library services in their current locations while, acknowledging that some buildings may change.

It will also provide further clarity on what local library users can expect to receive across all library services as a “core” offer while also maximising the potential for further funding through a “tailored” offer focused on local community needs at each individual library. 

The consultation proposals, supporting documents and survey are available to view by visiting www.bradford.gov.uk/libraries

During this consultation period the Council will also hold a number of public consultation drop-ins across the district to allow residents to listen to our proposals on the new library model and share their views face-to-face. Locations and dates for these events will be made available on the website or you can ask at your local library.

This consultation will be the first step in an on-going conversation with residents and partners about the library service in Bradford District.

Cllr Sarah Ferriby, said: “We know how important libraries are to our communities and we have listened very carefully to all the views we have received from residents, staff and other stakeholders.

“The funding from Public Health allows us to maintain our existing library offer and residents will still be able to access a local library in future.

“However, we still face the reality of years of cuts and cannot afford for the service to stand still and continue to operate in its current form.

“The changes we are proposing build on many of the things libraries already deliver in terms of delivering wider Council priorities, for instance, improving the health and wellbeing of residents.

“We will continue talking and listening to residents and our aim for the future is to provide a library service which meets the specific local needs of each community we serve.”

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