|Savage Cuts Proposed For Ealing's Libraries|
Volunteers will be sought to run current council operated facilities
Over half the public libraries in Ealing Borough could be staffed only by volunteers if proposals by the Council are approved.
Seven of the thirteen libraries would no longer have any paid staff and be dependent on unpaid members of the community to keep them running.
The shock proposals are due to be discussed at cabinet next week which will also hear about planned cuts to early years services as well as libraries.
The council will set its 2019/20 budget in February, including council tax bills for the year ahead. It will also consider further savings proposals including already agreed plans to reduce the council’s senior management team and to restructure the organisation in an attempt to achieve greater efficiency.
If agreed, the council will consult on a plan to operate just six of its 13 libraries which would also see the current opening hours changing.
Other local authorities across the country have already implemented cuts to library services which have seen Council paid staff withdrawn from some of the libraries in their area. Five of the Isle of Wight's eleven libraries have been run by volunteers since 2011.
The Council say, ''the remaining seven could become community-managed libraries if interested groups and residents come forward with workable proposals and agree to take on their long-term management. This approach has been successfully used by other local authorities and the council has started discussions with some interested local groups.''
The proposed 'community managed' libraries would be :
Meanwhile Children's centre provision is also facing major cuts. Ealing currently has 27 children’s centres; seven main centres and 20 smaller linked sites. The proposals due to be discussed would mean early intervention and support services would be provided from 16 centres - a reduction of 11 and the council say some of them may close.
''Early years services will be reconfigured and reduced at the remaining 11 sites, although services provided by others, such as childcare and early education, will continue and could be expanded in some cases to meet local needs. Early health services could also continue to be delivered from some sites. It is possible that a small number of the linked centres could close, however the council will work with its partners to maintain services wherever possible. If the changes go ahead, Ealing would still have more children’s centres than most other London boroughs.''
Since 2010 the council say they have lost £143million from its government grant, a reduction of 64%, greater than the London and national average. By 2021, its government funding will disappear and it will have to fund its services solely through council tax, business rates, fees, charges and commercial income.
Councillor Jasbir Anand, cabinet member for business and community services, said: “These are not easy decisions, but with government cuts of this magnitude, we are forced to look with fresh eyes at how we operate and carefully consider how best to serve the people and areas that need our services most. For both the library service and our children’s centres, we have taken into account important factors such as local need, accessibility and geographical spread across the borough.
Conservative opposition Leader Councillor Greg Stafford said, '' he inevitable closure of 20 children centres and 7 libraries was surprisingly not mentioned in Labour’s 2018 Manifesto 'For the Many'. The reduction already made to Ealing Central Library along with new closures and reduced hours will mean that the library budget will be cut by a whopping 75%. Whilst I support, and believe in citizen engagement, it is a completely unrealistic to ask residents to run statutory services which need professional staff.
''These services are essential, and it is what we as Council exist to provide. Frankly, if Labour is not up to the job, they should stop collecting our taxes to fund their generous special responsibility allowances, pack up, and allow the Conservatives to deliver the services that residents want and require!''
Ealing Council has categorically dismissed Cllr Stafford's suggestion that all the centres in the borough are set to close saying that only a 'small number' of the twenty are at risk of shutting permanently. Cllr Stafford responded by saying, ''I stand by the quote. These centres if they physically still exist won't be children's centres as we know it; hence closure.''
Councillor Gary Malcolm, Ealing Liberal Democrat Leader, said, "Labour knew that the government were making cuts and should have made proper plans to review its budgets earlier. It also needs to stop wasting money on badly managed projects such as a change to the parking permit scheme where they needed to hire additional staff and paid for 623 hours of overtime to tackle the additional correspondence. Cutting many of our libraries and childrens centres will be a body blow for students, parents and many other residents."
All proposals are subject to cabinet decision and public consultation.
Cabinet papers can be found here
9 January 2019