Green Councillors have condemned Labour’s plan to redesign libraries in the city as “an exercise in spin”, as the Council gears up to vote on proposals at a full council meeting on Thursday this week. Greens are encouraging residents to contact Conservative and Labour councillors to push for the plans to go back to the drawing board.
Labour’s libraries plan will see the sale of Hove library and increasing automation and staff cuts in the city’s remaining libraries. Greens have criticised the impact of the plans on disabled and older people who rely on support from staff, and have complained that consultation on the plans has been misleading and unhelpful.
Despite being presented as supportive of Labour’s policy, further analysis of the consultation suggests among Hove Library users, opinions are divided, with only 50% for and 47% against. Greens claim support is much lower when people understand the true impact of the plans on the library service in Hove.
Green councillor and spokesperson for Economic Development and Culture, Tom Druitt, said:
“The costs of maintaining Hove library have been subject to limited scrutiny which suggests the true costs may not be as high as claimed. According to the Brighton Society, for example, the bulk of the £750,000 repairs for the roof appear to be based not on essential maintenance costs but on a full historic restoration of the roof, a laudable but ultimately unnecessary expenditure.
“How can we trust Labour’s figures after leader Warren Morgan has claimed that the sale of Hove Library will guarantee a modern library service for “years to come”, when in reality the estimated £1 million sale value won’t even cover the £1.2 million extension to Hove Museum required to house the new service. Something just doesn’t add up here.
“The bulk of running costs for Hove Library are staff, which Labour plan to cut in its vision of automated libraries where the few remaining staff are far too busy to help any customers in need of additional support. We don’t support this either in Hove Library or in any of the other community libraries in the city.
“These are political decisions based on Labour’s priorities as to where to target Council funds. It is Labour who have brought this down to a binary decision to close either Hove Library or 7 community libraries. It is Labour who are deciding not to seek additional funding to maintain a historic and cultural icon. We may be in dire financial straits now, but selling off the family silver is not the way to deal with it.