Written Statement – Public Libraries in Wales

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport

Our public libraries are vital to Welsh Government strategies, policy and delivery for knowledge and skills, education and community development.  On 3 December, I announced an expert review of current and future plans by local authorities to deliver public library services. I would like to update members on progress to establish the expert review panel which will produce a report by July 2014. In supporting the review, my officials in CyMAL will work closely with local authorities through the Welsh Local Government Association. The panel will also consider the work  of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee’s short inquiry into public libraries in Wales.

The review will be undertaken by a small reference panel chaired by Claire Creaser, Director LISU, Loughborough University. Claire is an authority on library performance measures and led the development of the latest Welsh Public Library Standards Framework. The other panel members are Prof Hywel Roberts, a respected authority on libraries in Wales, Dr Steve Davies, Cardiff University who has a particular interest in the management of community libraries, and Peter Gomer, a Policy Officer at the Welsh Local Government Association, who has extensive experience in managing local authority cultural and leisure services. The panel will be tasked to produce a report by July 2014. I am grateful to the Chair and the members of the review panel for agreeing to complete this important work.

The panel will be initially tasked to review the current situation relating to local authorities’ delivery plans for public library services. Information will be sought from each local authority and further research commissioned on the likely impact of proposed changes on the performance of library services in meeting the current Welsh Public Library Standards Framework. A comparative benchmarking of the position in Wales against other national public library services outside Wales will also be available to the panel. The panel’s conclusions will be included in their report which will outline the position on an all Wales basis, highlighting best practice and any areas of concern.

In considering the position on a Wales-wide basis, the panel will be further tasked to consider whether alternative service delivery models would provide more efficient and effective library services, based on collaboration and joint procurement.

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Our basic needs are being ignored

23 DEC 2013

Our basic needs are being ignored – by Jean Morris

From: South Wales Evening Post; Tuesday December 23, 2013
http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Say-basic-needs-ignored/story-20357104-detail/story.html

Pennard Library

Pennard Library

Jean Morris wrote;-  “I AM appalled to hear plans to close down Pennard Library are in the pipeline.  On the most basic level of protest — it is right next door to the primary school.  But it is also a social centre and the beating cultural heart of Gower (the only public library in Gower).  Other libraries are too far, too inconvenient for the frail, the elderly, those with young children or those dependent on public transport.  Will Swansea Council be seen as the creator of rich, regenerative material assets such as our splendid new boulevard and SA1, yet also a body unwilling to move heaven and if need be to find the relatively modest amount of money needed to support the basic cultural needs of our rural areas?

Protests take place at first Swansea Council public budget consultation

20 DEC 2013
Protests take place at first Swansea Council public budget consultation by Amy Downward
From: South Wales Evening Post; Friday December 20, 2013
http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/Protests-place-Swansea-Council-public-budget/story-20348863-detail/story.html
THE first of a series of public consultations on Swansea Council proposals attracted more than 20 residents on Thursday night.  Cabinet members and senior officers were on hand at a public drop-in session at West Cross Community Centre to discuss proposals about libraries, culture and tourism.  It was the first of four themed sessions being staged over the next few weeks about proposals aimed at making £45m in budget savings over the next three years.  Residents and council members attended the consultation to protest against the proposed changes to Pennard Library.  Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, said:  “This protest shows the depth of feeling I am getting from people about these plans.  “I hope that this display of people power convinces cabinet members to go back to the drawing board and think in greater detail about how they make reductions.”

Councillor Nick Bradley, cabinet member for regeneration, said:   “It was great to see so many people there taking an interest.  “I wanted to reassure people that no decisions on any proposals have been made. “What we want to do is listen to our residents and take their views into account first.”   He said Thursday’s drop-in session showed residents value the services the council provides and also understand the financial challenges are not of its making.  He said: “There were some valuable discussions, particularly about libraries and Pennard Library. “My message to residents of Pennard is that if they are interested in taking over the management of library services in their community we want to work with them to see what can be achieved.  “We haven’t made any decisions and we aren’t proposing to reduce non-statutory services like many other councils have done; we’re aiming to create a smarter, leaner and more efficient council.  “If these proposals are approved we’ll be spending £1.5m a day in Swansea supporting communities and the local economy.”

Three further public drop-in sessions on adult services, education and young people and community and transport issues are planned for early in the New Year.

There will also be meetings with key stakeholder groups prior to the consultation closing date on January 22.

Senior managers at Swansea Council are also engaging with trades unions and staff on the savings proposals.

It is anticipated the final decisions on the proposals will be made when cabinet reports to a meeting of full council in February.

Online consultation was launched last week at www.swansea.gov.uk/sustainableswansea