Ques­tion marks over li­brary project

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sum­ner@reach­plc.com

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.

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