Hove Library is to be merged into Hove Museum under cost-cutting plans to be considered by the city council as it looks at which buildings and services it can close to make ends meet.
Council leader Warren Morgan today confirmed plans to offload the “costly and unsuitable” Hove Library building in Church Road and move services to the museum a couple of hundred metres away in New Church Road.
However, the plans face stiff opposition, with a Save Hove Library campaign has already started, with more than a hundred people following its Facebook page just hours after it was created.
It’s led by Chris Hawtree, who has been warning the library was under threat since Labour took control of the council in May, as closure plans had twice been proposed by officers while the Greens were in power.
In a blog post discussing the financial “crisis” facing the council, Coun Morgan said the merger would form part of plans to open libraries seven days a week.
He also outlined plans to move management of the Royal Pavilion to a new trust, which would also oversee the Dome and city museums.
And he said “bold and difficult decisions” to balance the books meant more council buildings and even services could close.
He said: “We can’t put off tough choices any longer. By 2019, even if council tax increases by 2% a year, there will be a gap of well over a hundred million pounds between what we receive in revenue and what we need to pay for what we do. 1% in council tax raises £1 million for services.
“Further cuts are expected to be announced next month. All the while Government is handing responsibility for more and more services to councils, without the money to pay for them.
“We are putting forward plans to make libraries community hubs, open seven days a week in buildings that are fit for purpose, affordable to run and at the heart of their neighbourhoods.
“The current home of Hove Library is costly and unsuitable for modern library services, so we are proposing to move it to Hove Museum where it will make better use of the space in a better location for Hove residents.
“To safeguard the Royal Pavilion, the symbol of our city and the jewel in our crown, we will be putting together plans to move it into a new trust alongside the Dome and museums so that it is preserved for future generations.
“It will still be council-owned, and the trust board will have elected members representing residents on how the Pavilion and museums are run.
“We can no longer afford to run the same number of town halls and offices we do now. I will be radical in my approach to buildings that are much-loved but costly to run. Kings House is being sold and Hove Town Hall being improved to become our main headquarters.
“We will look again at our other properties to ensure we can afford to run them and that we are making the best possible use for them. If not, bold and difficult decisions will be needed.
“Money saved from council buildings will be invested in local community hubs, new technology and better customer services.”
“The pressures on our funding mean that decisions on social care and children’s services, as well as dozens of other things the council does currently, will be reduced or in some cases closed.
“We will work with partners in the voluntary, co-operative, community, private and charity sectors to keep as many services going as we can, keep them local and accountable and fair.
“We will get our own house in order before we make the cuts to services we have to, and we will target our spending and investment on those who need it most and the basic services we all rely on. We pledged a council that works for you, and we will need your help to deliver it.”
In a comment made on this site in May, former Green councillor and library campaigner Chris Hawtree said: “The Llbrary department proposed [closing Hove Library] as a way of meeting national austerity measures. I am rightly proud that Jason Kitcat, Geoffrey Bowden and I stood up against this.
“I still shudder to recall the morning that call came through in my sitting room. What’s more, such a measure was later proposed as an element of the “freeze budget” this year.
“I think it was the best thing I ever did: at informal chairs I spoke off the cuff for two minutes, felt my heart beating quicker as I did so, and this awful officer proposal was slung out.”
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