Slough Borough Council looks to slash funding for library books

James Bagley. Local Democracy Reporter

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Slough will no longer be one of the top spenders on library books as it searches for vital savings.

As part of major cuts to reduce financial pressures, council bosses are looking for between 30 and 40 per cent savings in every service in order to save millions of pounds every year.

One of the main statutory service cuts that could be made is in the library service where Slough Borough Council aims to save about £400,000, which represents a 33 per cent saving in the service, in the draft 2022/23 budget.

A 12-week consultation is already underway to gather views on what residents think about the library service, which could see Cippenham and Langley libraries close down or see library hours slashed.

At a customer and community scrutiny panel, lead member for children’s services, lifelong learning, and skills Cllr Christine Hulme (Lab, Central) said the response rate has been 'quite good' where 970 comments have been received so far from online and drop-in sessions.

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, November 9, executive director for customer and community Richard West said the consultation is not 'pre-determined' and they will be analysing feedback where they conclude a recommendation to senior councillors next year.

However, it was heard that the council spends about £250,000 a year on new books to stock their four libraries, making Slough one of the top four spenders in the country on library books among local authorities.

Mr West said: “We’ve got a library service at the moment which is arguably one of the best in the country, but we have a budget that isn’t one of the best in the country. That’s the dilemma, isn’t it?”

This means the council will reduce this £250,000 spend on new books – but a small budget will be maintained to replace worn down books.

Depending on which route the council takes, library staff could be made redundant.

In the customer and community part of the draft 2022/23 budget, it needs to find a total of nearly £3m-worth in savings, leaving it with a total of £4.3m to spend on services within that directorate.

This is a massive decrease from this year’s budget which gave customer and community services a sum of nearly £10m to spend.

Other savings within this directorate the council is aiming to make includes stopping community development and youth work to achieve a £452,000 saving, withdrawing its documents stored in a Reading office and transfer to a council-owned building to shave £75,000 from its budget, and deleting various vacant

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