Today’s guest blog comes from Carl Minns, leader of Hull City Council. Carl speaks about the plans for the future of Hull’s library services.
Many people are already asking me that in the midst of making £50 million worth of savings to its budget how has Hull City Council managed to protect and possibly extend the number of Library access points in the city over the coming two years? The answer really lay in two main parts which boils down to how the Council manages its buildings estates & new investment coming into the city and political will.
The Council’s building estate.
In common with many Councils Hull City Council has operated services very much on a silo basis. As such the Council holds a large property and building portfolio. In a number of areas of the city this has lead to a plethora of buildings that deliver Council services. The Council has been in a process of breaking down barriers to entry for the public for quite some time by developing the one stop shop approach to customer services. This saves time and hassle for the public by ensuring they only have to make one visit to the council if they are making multiple transactions and saves the taxpayer money with regards to the costs of running multiple buildings. A win win!
Given the Council knew the cuts were coming we started a serious look at how we could protect library provision for local residents and what became strikingly obvious was the duplication of buildings in localities especially in relation to library and customer service centres. An example of this is on the Bransholme estate where there is a library and customer service centre within 5 minutes walk of each other! A plan was developed which can be summed up in one sentence.
“Every resident in Hull will be within one mile of a Customer access point”
Work then began to identify the most suitable locations for these facilities which lead to 13 out of 15 of the council’s current library facilities being used with new buildings been planned for the rest (at the moment another two) Behind this pledge will be capital investment in existing buildings and a preservation of the Councils book fund. The size and scale of these buildings will range from our three story central library, through large district libraries to small neighbourhood libraries to access points of limited book stocks with a library catalogues. The plans in the budget will ensure 90% of the city is covered by the pledge. The large gap at the moment is around Kingswood which is still growing. Once the village centre starts to be built up there I am confident that we can drive that number up to nigh on 100%.
When it comes to Councils libraries normally end up being a Cinderella service, quietly being ignored to get on with their business whilst the big issues of children services, social services, housing and regeneration take up councillor and officer time. The only time they really pop up on an agenda is when closures are afoot!
This is no different in Hull but there are a very small number of us (cross party) who are passionate about libraries and take every opportunity to talk them up and support them. We believe that a thriving public library service is vital for our city. Our library service educates supports, inspires and frees up our residents to be full members of society and inspires the next generation. Because of this we were determined to protect a thriving public library service in Hull.
As a Council there are still some issues that that we need to work though with staff and trades unions. The key one for me is to ensure that the status of the role of professional librarian is both acknowledged and sustained – I am sure that will be the case. There are challenging times ahead for Hull and cuts are being made across the board but this is one area where with a bit of imagination and political will we have been able to preserve and enhance a frontline service.
Guest bloggers are not affiliated with VftL, and all views and opinions are their own.