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1964 Libraries Act
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WRITTEN ANSWERS to QUESTIONS - SCRUTINY : 14TH DECEMBER 2015
(a) Budget proposals
Overall Library Budget
Swindon Borough Council is facing, in common with all councils, reductions in government grants combined with large increases in demand for services for children and young people and vulnerable elderly residents.
The council’s Cabinet considered a paper on the 9th of December which set out the councils draft budget for 2016-17 which incorporates a number of proposals for savings to help the council make £20million of savings in 2016-17. Up to 2020, the council must find another £60million in addition to the £20million required for the 2016-17 budget.
As a result of the pressures of increasing demand and reducing funding, the proposed budget signals that the council will now prioritise its efforts on growing the local economy to generate new income, provide more preventative services to address social care issues before they arise, and help more people to take care of themselves.
In 2015/16 the council has budgeted £3.9m for Leisure, Community Assets (including libraries) and Culture. As part of this, the library service budget for 2015/2016 is £2.6m. This figure includes the costs of operating the library service, but does not include the Council’s contribution to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre or central support costs related to Libraries for IT, HR and payroll, finance etc. or other costs incurred by the Council such as capital expenditure.
The Cabinet paper sets out the Council’s current and future financial context.  'In order to live within its means, the Council needs to make significant savings in all service areas. For planning purposes and as part of an overarching response, a reduction in the Library service budget of at least £1.5m is envisaged by 2020.
While the financial parameter is clear, within this the Council is committed to developing a sustainable model of provision which will enable the council to meet its statutory duties and enable local service choice and design. A draft Library strategy will be brought to Cabinet in February prior to consultation, , which will set out the type of change that will be needed to achieve a sustainable, affordable position by 2020.
A figure of 75% has been used to give an indication of the overall scale of reduction that may be required to the overall budgets for Leisure, Community Assets, Libraries and Culture by 2020. At this stage there are no proposals to deliver this change, the figure simply gives an indication of the scale of the challenge the Council is faced with.
The Cabinet report specifies savings of at least £200k from the pilot areas and work is continuing to explore the type of proposals that will secure at least this level and potentially as high as £500k. Detailed proposals will be brought to Cabinet in February. The precise make up of these savings will be clear at that point.
(b) Staffing Issues
- What are the staffing implications for the £1.5m or 75% budget reduction?
- How much of the staffing budget will form part of the £1.5m or 75% reduction?
- How many staff posts will be lost?
At this stage, until the needs assessment and service strategy are developed, it is not known how any specific libraries or roles may be affected. Staff will be involved as the strategy is developed and regular staff engagement sessions will be held as the process develops.
QUESTION (2) Liden Library
- How much are the operating costs for Liden Library, including IT and stock, and how much will
costs be reduced by co-locating 105.5 Community Radio in the building?
- How will the 105.5 Community Radio contribute to the direct running of the library? Was this subject
to public consultation?
- What process was used for selecting Radio 105.5? Please state where invitations for Expressions of
Interest (EOI) were advertised and for how long? Thank you.
Liden LibraryLiden operating costs Based on Actual spend 2014/15 rounded to nearest £1000:
These costs do not include central support costs for example IT, stock fund or other areas which support the delivery of the whole library service.
No 105.5 will not be contributing to the running of the library other than The £2,400 proposed rent from 105.5 covers the anticipated annual utility cost which will be reviewed in year two. If the actual costs differ from those anticipated we will likely install a ‘sub meter’ to ensure accurate cost split.
Prior to Swindon becoming a Unitary Authority the room within Liden Library facilitated a county wide book distribution point; in recent years the spaces have become largely redundant hosting occasional training sessions, fulfilling storage requirements and a staff break out area.
The concept of developing a ‘Liden Community Room’ space within the Library was discussed as part of the wider Liden Village centre asset review; the intent being to maximise the use of space for the benefit of the community, developing future Library provision and ensuring the Council receives an income equal or greater than anticipated costs.
The Council has previously received lease requests from a number of groups and with this in mind it was agreed at a meeting with Ward Members on October 16th that the Council should progress to a community test of the market, this would ensure that any future tenant could be assessed fairly against the Councils Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Criteria.
Invitations to express an interest were requested from charitable/not for profit organisations on October 27th 2015 and groups were requested to submit proposals. Interested groups were sent a copy of the Councils CAT Evaluation Criteria and Marketing Particulars. The deadline for applications to be received was November 9th 2015, a timeframe of two weeks. The request was advertised within VAS iD and distributed among community groups and forwarded to Ward Members. The Council received three expressions of interest from community based groups.
The three bids were assessed by a panel of officers against the CAT criteria. This covered: 1. Group Constitution & Vision/Governance
2. Business Planning & Financial forecasts/contribution
3. Locality Working Plan (How the group intends to work with the Ward, Locality, Borough)
4. Volunteering & Employment Capacity
5. Health & Safety Compliance including any previous facility management
6. Links to the Swindon Priorities
Within the Evaluation Criteria under section 3 (Contribution with Eldene, Liden & Park South Ward) bidders were asked to outline how they could “Work with the adjacent Library service, developing & enhancing the Library provision where possible”
Whilst there are no formal plans outlined for Liden Library at this stage, an assessed tenant with a commitment of understanding could help the Council explore opportunities on reducing subsidies, in turn this could help make the Library viable for the longer term.
QUESTION (3) Central Library
- How much is the operating cost for Central Library?
- After a reduction of £1.5m or 75% to the overall library budget, will there be sufficient budget
remaining to cover the running of the Central Library at current levels?
The operating cost for the Central Library is £736,811. These costs do not include central support costs for example IT, stock fund or other areas which support the delivery of the whole library service
To help inform the development of a model for community-based assets, the council is proposing that a service strategy for the Library service is developed for consideration by Cabinet in February 2016, to achieve a reduction in the budget for that service of at least £1.5m by 2020. More detail will be known once the needs assessment and the service strategy are developed, and in the pilot areas, any proposals will be subject to consultation. This will help inform how the most effective libraries service can be offered for the level of funding available beyond 2020.