Question marks over library project
Campaigners continue to call for answers on the future of Bath Library. By summer 2019, Bath and North East Somerset Council hopes to integrate its One Stop Shop, currently in Manvers Street, into the Podium. But questions from seven different residents to last week’s cabinet meeting - about staffing levels, opening hours, costs and how the project will be carried out - reveal how much uncertainty surrounds the project. Work is expected to start early in the New Year and cabinet member Karen Warrington revealed there are still two city centre options on the table for a temporary location, or the library could remain open during phased works. Bath Novel Award founder Caroline Ambrose said: “I’m here to call upon the leadership to clarify where, when and how Bath’s public library services will be provided from January 2019. “For a city with a population of 90,000 residents, Bath is already about to become one of the worst public library services in the country. “By cutting back to just one library, our city’s public library service is five times below the national level of one public library for every 18,000 residents. “Bath Central Library’s role in delivering the council’s legal obligations to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library services has never been more essential. “Despite a decade of underfunding and backwards thinking about libraries, people use the city library as much as ever. “The council has sacked the librarians, reduced the opening hours, cut bookstock and replaced almost half the workforce with unpaid volunteers but despite all of this, residents still use Bath Central Library to the tune of half a million physical visits every year. “And yet, with just 61 days of 2018 left, the leadership seems to have no plan or clear idea where, when and how people’s needs will be met from January. “Building works are planned to start in the New Year to turn most of our modest one floor library into an integrated council services hub at a public cost of £3.5million.” When the One Stop Shop is integrated into the library, residents will be able to use the PCS and selfservice machines to pay their taxes, bills and fines. Staff will be on hand to give guidance on accessing the planning portal and information on a range of services. For the majority of activities, residents will be able to serve themselves without help from or talking to staff. In written questions to the meeting, Mari Levant asked what the opening hours of the integrated library and One Stop Shop would be, while Gill Kirk wanted an update on the project’s cost. In written answers, Councillor Warrington, the cabinet member for transformation and customer services, said two possible locations had been identified but if neither were suitable refurbishment of the existing library would take place in two phases. She said both options had been factored into the plans and residents will be told when it is finalised - but costs could not be broken down due to commercial sensitivity. The One Stop Shop is currently closed on Sundays but Cllr Warrington said there is no plan to change Bath Library’s opening hours, which include both Saturday and Sunday. B&NES Council applied for a certificate of lawfulness for the project, rather than a full planning application, so it will not be open for comments. The authority says the integration will not change the use of the premises because the primary use will still be as a library.