Home   News   Article

BCP Council launches public consultation over future of Christchurch’s library service

A ‘long overdue’ consultation on the future direction of BCP Council’s library service is to be held.

A report presented to Cabinet members at their latest meeting said “alternative models of delivery” needed to be explored.

A spending review of the cash-strapped council found that £440,000 a year could be saved by reducing library opening times by ten hours per week.

Christchurch Library (Google)
Christchurch Library (Google)

Christchurch Independents Group’s member for Highcliffe and Walkford, Cllr Andy Martin, told fellow cabinet members: “I believe this is the most important consultation being carried out by the council because of how critical libraries are to all communities.

Highcliffe BCP Cllr Andy Martin
Highcliffe BCP Cllr Andy Martin

“This library strategy review is long overdue. The world has changed since the last one was done – we’ve had a pandemic, we’re in a cost of living crisis that continues (and) our public services are broken after years of government underfunding. Libraries are more important than ever and we need them now more than ever.”

A direction sign for a library, with a background of treetops and sky. iStock 187185793
A direction sign for a library, with a background of treetops and sky. iStock 187185793

As BCP’s cabinet member for customer, communications and culture, Cllr Martin said the “meaningful and comprehensive” library consultation will seek to discover what the service means to residents, what they value about it and how it can be improved.

BCP’s overview and scrutiny board chair, Cllr Stephen Bartlett, said there had been a “degree of scepticism” about the forthcoming consultation.

The Independent member for Redhill and Northbourne said: “There were concerns there may have been some predetermination about the future of libraries. However, Cllr Martin gave reassurances this was not the case, and confirmed there are no current plans to close libraries.”

Cllr Bartlett added the library consultation will be “very comprehensive” and the scrutiny board will be “keeping a very close eye on it”.

Labour’s member for Boscombe West, Cllr Patrick Canavan, told the meeting the authority was not “very good” at the written elements of public consultations.

After learning BCP leases many of its library buildings, including the one in his ward, he said: “I raise a query as to the degree to which we would be able to look at alternative models of delivery (for library services) if we don’t own the buildings in the first place. I’m keen to explore that question.”

He added that alternative models of service delivery could allow for libraries to open outside of their current operating hours as venues for non-library activities and meetings.

BCP Council leader Cllr Vikki Slade said: “We’ve spent the last three years saying, ‘where is the library strategy?’, and got very frustrated about it. But I think this was worth waiting three years for.”

BCP Cllr Vikki Slade
BCP Cllr Vikki Slade

She added that libraries in some areas, such as Bristol, can be accessed in the evenings and on Sundays even if staff are not in the building. BCP had a “huge opportunity” to explore a similar service delivery in its area, she argued.

“We want to see every library have a friends group,” continued Cllr Slade. “We have a chance to use this (consultation) as a springboard to build something really exciting for the future.”

Cabinet members voted unanimously in favour of launching a public consultation on libraries and to “fully evaluate” alternative delivery models.

They also agreed to explore the development of libraries as community hubs and as places from which to deliver shared council services.

The consultation’s results and options for future service delivery will be presented to cabinet in October.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More