2 March 2016

Majority back moving Hove library into new cultural centre

A majority responding to a survey are in favour of merging Hove’s library with its museum as a way to save community libraries.

Cuts in government funding have led to the council proposing a reorganisation of services as the only means of keeping all current libraries open – including those in neighbourhoods.

Since November the authority has been consulting residents about the proposed changes, enshrined in a four-year plan. Broad support now means officers are recommending councillors approve the reorganisation.

Crucial to saving all of the city’s 12 neighbourhood libraries is finding cost reductions of £350,000 a year from running Hove Library. At least seven of the 12 neighbourhood libraries would need to close to save the same sum.

The 1908 building costs £500,000 a year to run and needs £750,000 of repairs in the next five years. The plan proposes merging it with Hove Museum 300 metres west along New Church Road. A new cultural centre for Hove would be created by building an extension doubling space on the ground floor.

Consultation forms returned from 1124 people revealed 57 per cent of respondents tend to agree or strongly agree the Hove moves; 38 per cent tend to disagree or strongly disagree and the rest were undecided.

Council leader Warren Morgan said: “I completely understand local attachment to the current Hove Library. But keeping it in that building will leave us no choice but to consider shutting other libraries to pay for it. So we must put services before buildings and provide the best citywide facilities with the money we have. This is a great opportunity to work with residents and library users to provide a new, improved service that is much-loved and integral to the life of Hove.”

Other changes aimed at protecting the library service, while coping with 20 per cent savings on its £5.1m budget by 2020, are:

* Increasing Libraries Extra provision, where some libraries are unstaffed for periods, as already operates successfully at Woodingdean and Portslade. This would increase available hours from 362 to 701 a week, at reduced cost.

* Library provision in Hollingbury will be through the Hollingbury and Patcham Children’s Centre. There would also be a community library collection in the Old Boat community centre serving all ages.

* Extending the Home Delivery Service for less-mobile people.

* Developing a funding strategy to increase income.

The existing Hove Library building would need to be sold if the museum extension is to be built. A decision on any sale would go to a future meeting of the policy and resources committee.

Consultation also involved interviews and exit surveys with thousands of adults and children, lapsed borrowers and focus groups. The recent open consultation running since November, including the Hove proposal, drew 1124 responses – significantly larger than recent consultations on children’s centres or the council budget.

A report on the Libraries Plan is going before the Economic Development and Culture Committee on March 10.