Public consultation on Walsall Council’s draft budget proposals to close up to 7 libraries across the borough and cease the Mobile Library service was concluded at the beginning of January. Nearly 2,000 questionnaires were returned and 435 face to face interviews have taken place. Since then the feedback from this consultation has been analysed and evaluated.
The Council’s Cabinet are carefully considering the feedback and the impact of the current proposals on the most vulnerable sections of the population.
Councillor Mike Bird, Leader of the Council stated: “We welcome the way people have come forward to tell us their views on our proposals and we are listening to what they are telling us.
“Cabinet are minded to review the current proposals and amend it to retain a mobile library which will continue to offer a library service to those most in need and to consider how the introduction of new technologies might offer a solution in some areas”
Councillor Harris, Portfolio Holder for Community Leisure and Culture said: “There has been a tremendous amount of work done on this issue and we continue to work with the community in those areas where libraries have been proposed for closure and to minimise the impact.
“It’s the policy of this Council to sustain and maintain the library service and to find a local solution.
“We are still in the process of confirming potential partners in all of the areas affected and we are actively pursuing these negotiations so that local people will still have access to books and learning at a local level.”
Branch libraries at Beechdale, Blakenall Heath, New Invention, Pleck, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood could close under the cost-cutting proposals. The axing of the mobile library service and 13 jobs was proposed as part of a bid to save £328,854 this year and £159,058 next year, forced by national government budget cuts.
New technology including self-service machines and a new smart card entry system is also planned at libraries which remain open. Around £300,000 could be invested in some of the remaining nine libraries to bring in a new management system, allowing visitors to use them when they are unstaffed. Customers would be given a special card and PIN to access the libraries when they are unmanned, with CCTV keeping watch and a book detection system used to keep track of items leaving the building.
The home library service which delivers books to residents who are housebound would continue.