Swansea Council has reneged on former promises to maintain the only library left on Gower. It seems that the decision to close Pennard Library was made without proper consultation.
Friends of Pennard Library (FoPL) was close to achieving the rebuild of Pennard Library, which was threatened with closure in November 2013. FoPL was working in partnership with the City and County of Swansea to create a community hub and generate an income from: a café; a large community exhibition space; and an IT area – which would have enhanced the lives of all Gower residents.
This project would have:
• provided Swansea with substantial cash savings;
• safeguarded the statutory library and IT services;
• created a building with minimal energy requirements;
• enabled Swansea to fulfil its legal obligations and uphold Welsh Public Library Standards;
• fulfilled the recommendations of the Expert Review of Welsh Libraries 2014 in providing a partnership model to deliver the library service.
The former Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Nick Bradley, promised, in writing, that if the Pennard Library building were made good, then the librarian led-service would remain. In addition, the former cabinet supported the rebuild plans, and a panel was due to meet on 11th September to give the project the final go-ahead. Frustratingly, this meeting never took place as it was not quorate: the new leader, Rob Stewart, was not in attendance.
After weeks of trying to communicate with the new cabinet members and officers, finally, on 8th October, the FoPL trustees learned in a surprise email from Tracey McNulty, the new Head of Swansea Cultural Services, that: “…the new Cabinet members do not feel able to give us the go ahead for a continued library service in Pennard… the ongoing costs to the Council, for the service/ provision of a professional librarian and library functions – tied in for a period of five years due to the CyMAL [Welsh Government] grant criteria – is not able to be supported.”
Apparently, no cabinet meeting had taken place at this point, and at least one cabinet member was totally unaware of this decision. It would seem that the new leader, Rob Stewart, made a unilateral decision to close Pennard Library, without consulting his cabinet.
At a meeting with FoPL on 16th October, Councillor Robert Francis-Davies, the new cabinet member for Regeneration, promised further consultation with CyMAL regarding the terms of the grant. CyMAL confirmed that there was flexibility in the terms and there was no stipulation for the council to pay for the librarian service for another five years.
In an email on 24th October to FoPL’s Chairman, Councillor Francis-Davies stated: “… the authority is currently undertaking a review of its library service provision. In light of this the authority feels it is unable to accept the current Community Learning Libraries Grant [CyMAL] for Pennard Library as this presupposes the service at Pennard will remain before the review is published.” Instead of discussing the matter further with FoPL to find ways of working together, the grant was formally rejected. This the second CyMAL grant lost for Pennard Library.
A FoPL spokesperson said, “Firstly, this appears to run contrary to Councillor Francis-Davies’ statement that there would be further discussion on the possibility of accepting the CyMAL grant. Secondly, this review should have been published in August! In the light of promises made by the previous cabinet, and our Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties, it seems totally disingenuous of this cabinet to now use ‘waiting for the review’ as the reason for rejecting the CyMAL
grant. The council’s delay has meant a loss of £163,000 of grant money towards the rebuild.
“It is unlawful to close Pennard Library due to the fact that many Gower residents will be unable to access the library service. This breaches the 2010 Equality Act and also the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, which states that the Local Authority has to provide: ‘a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof.’ The Local Authority has withdrawn the mobile library service – without any public consultation. Many people living in rural Gower will not be able to get to a library if Pennard closes. We appeal to the council to honour its promises to maintain the cherished library service in Pennard.”
A public meeting to discuss the future of Pennard Library will be held on Monday 10th p.m., in Pennard Golf Club. All welcome.
For more information, please contact: Chair of FoPL, Sarah Joiner, at email@example.com
01792 232001, 07714 552 017