Neath MP Peter Hain has urged Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to look at all possible alternatives to maintain local libraries as Westminster cuts threaten the future of local facilities.
As part of his response to the to the review of library services in Neath Port Talbot Mr Hain has suggested library services join with other cherished local services, like local Post Offices, in a single community venue, that there is an increase in the mobile service where a facility is lost and that a service is retained in each valley.
In his letter Mr Hain suggested, ‘Discussions are held with local subpostmasters to establish whether their premises can be utilised to support local availability of books, even if there is no space for the full range in standalone libraries. Small post offices have been closing for decades and are now under increasing threat (perhaps to disappear entirely under current Government policies). Yet they could be kept open if Neath Port Talbot CBC made use of them to mutual benefit: making sub post offices more viable and enabling Library service costs to be cut whilst maintaining library services. Other Council services could also be dispensed through Post Offices with mutual benefit and savings.
‘Discussions are held with BT or other providers for a County Borough-wide funded deal for Wifi provision at post offices and community centres free for users, because many people including young residents now regularly use libraries for free Wifi. Such a deal should also provide Wifi ‘hot spots’ where Mobile Libraries park up, enabling both fixed internet access through PCs within the Mobile Libraries, and Smartphone or tablet access.
‘If small underused libraries have to close because of UK Government-imposed budget cuts then it is essential that Mobile Libraries are increased in both availability and frequency especially up our Valleys
‘The aim should be to retain if at all possible a library in each Valley – Neath Valley, Dulais Valley, Swansea Valley, Lower Amman Valley.’
Commenting on the consultation Mr Hain said, ‘This isn’t a decision anyone wants to be taking but the Westminster cuts are now filtering down to local government and Neath Port Talbot, like local authorities across Wales, have to look at everything to find the savings to get their books to balance.
‘The County Borough Council is caught between rock and a hard place by savage UK Government cuts in its budget, requiring savings which have to be found even in cherished services, I am anxious that in any Library reorganisation every effort is made to give local residents a service which means even the most isolated and low income are catered for. For some in this position reading books is a lifeline and important to their health and wellbeing.
‘The Westminster cuts are callous but it doesn’t have to mean services are lost completely but it will mean that services will change and will be delivered differently in the future.’
The Library Service Review Consultation runs until 2nd December 2013.