Hove Library and Museum merger likely to be first of several council building and services closures

Posted On 10 Oct 2015 at 11:01 am

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.

Hove Library. Image from Google StreetviewCouncil 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.”

  1. Gerald Wiley Reply

    Good to see Christopher Hawtree supporting the concept of ‘library’, but realistically, in these days of having to make financial savings, maintaining facilities that are used by fewer and fewer people, must be questioned.

    If what is actually used can be relocated and combined with other facilities, then this is better than buildings just sitting almost empty – and potentially freeing up money for things that the city actually needs – such as repairing the sea front.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Libraries are well used here. To put it in the Museum would make for a worse Library and a worse Museum.

      Since the Facebook page Save Hove Library started on Friday evening it has been getting a lot of attention.

      • Gerald Wiley Reply

        @Christopher – thanks for your reply.

        In reality, libraries are little used for their original function as most people now use to the internet for information – in the same way that music and video libraries have all but disappeared as well.

        Instead the libraries have had to reinvent themselves to provide other services for the local community that can probably be more easily provided in other locations.

        Isn’t the whole idea of a central library very archaic and in need of replacing in the internet world?

        If you do want a book, it is usually simpler, quicker, and cheaper to order a second-hand copy of a book I want from Amazon or from a charity shop and then give it on to charity at the end.

        Why the hassle of having to go to a library, often miles from home, to get a book, and then return it weeks later to avoid a fine?

        As such, who really cares if libraries are actually closing, if they are only really wanted by the ‘artistic elite’ who feel that ‘society’ needs to have them – even if ‘society’ never uses them.

        I do get the strong feeling that libraries are now there to employ librarians rather than to deliver a needed service to the community.

        Well as it currently stands 337 ‘like’ the page. And precisely what is it that the Hove library provides, that the 337 actually use and how often?

        What would be the impact of moving the facilities they do use to the Museum (or anywhere else for that matter) instead?

      • Gerald Wiley Reply

        @Christopher – just looked at the facebook page a bit more – very few of your “supporters” seem to come from the city – one is in Bristol and another in Spain…

      • Gerald Wiley Reply

        @Christopher – what do you mean by the library being ‘well used’? Do you have any comparative figures with other libraries in the city and elsewhere across the country, or are you just giving an optimistic qualitative view?

  2. Robocod Reply

    Such a shame that all of our buildings are being treated like this by the government, maybe put a Nandos here or subway?

  3. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Disappointing to see BHCC’s Labour Admin so bankrupt of ideas that all they can image is cuts, sell-offs and hand-wringing.

    Have the NO plans, ideas for making assets earn money? How irresponsible!

    other places now sell electricity to residents, etc to raise cash for city halls.

    Labour locally is all about its gamesnanship and internal squabbles and people using it for their cv’s or to counter their unemployment issues – as are all political parties really. Council officers are mostly just paranoid bean counters and so governance is a total failure when flexible maneuvrings are needed.

    No serious creative thinking in local government alas…and no entrepreneurial instincts – which Govt now INSISTS becomes the local authority’s way forward.

    Fee-paying birthday parties in the dedicated children’s room at Hove Library? Any reason why not?

    Schools open evenings for non-child fee-paying uses?

    • Gerald Wiley Reply

      @Valerie – agreed – but couldn’t such activities also take place at the Hove Museum or the refurbished Hove Town Hall where there could be significantly higher footfall?

      Unfortunately I don’t think entrepreneurial skills and councils (or for that matter councillors) go together – if they did have anyone they’d have left years ago to work in the private sector. If you need anything dynamic you’d need to get in people with ambition and targets to achieve. Look what’s happened in the city with all the past administrations.

      Perhaps there is hope for ex-business people like us in our dotage 🙂

      BTW – does this mean you now support Tory policy? I thought you’d gone over to the dark (green) side?

  4. jamesb Reply

    Libraries are so much more than books. They provide:

    Free internet access
    Free children’s activities
    A free space for community groups
    Free place to get information, about anything
    Free spaces to study

    They help:
    Improve literacy in children and adults
    People to learn English
    Those isolated in their homes
    People to improve I.T skills
    People look for work
    Those with learning disabities to integrate

    And yes they loan books which provide stress relief and entertainment.

    Close or reduce library services and you do much more than stop people borrowing books.

  5. Gerald Wiley Reply

    @jamesb – so you agree that the library is not just a library anymore. So back to basic questions:

    Do they have to be delivered from Church Road?
    Why can’t the essential services be moved to the museum (c. 400 yds away)?
    How well are the various services actually used?
    Do they all have to be delivered at all?
    How much does it cost to provide each service for each customer?

    This is all very emotive, but we need some standard quantitative usage and cost analysis on whether, and by whom, and where, it should be delivered.

  6. Howard Reply

    On the alleged redundancy of libraries, owing to the internet … it was interesting to read recently that Waterstones have taken their Kindle displays out of shops, because demand for books is up and no-one is buying readers anymore. This from a hard-nosed, commercial company.

    Warren Morgan says Hove library is ‘unsuitable’. In what way? It has shelves, books, chairs, desks and a lift. It was purpose-built as a library. It’s in the middle of Hove, not down a arterial road (and by the way, 400 yards is a bloody long way if you are mobility impaired).

    If the council really need to sell or let one of these buildings (and I agree with Valerie Paynter that the lack of entrepreneurial imagination is a bit sad) then surely it should be museum?

    • Gerald Wiley Reply

      @howard – not to be too pedantic, but if the library moves 400 yds down the road it may also be 400 yds closer to someone else with mobility issues.

      There is also ample parking for disabled drivers outside the museum itself and in New Church Road.

      The problem with the suitability as a library of the old building is that according to @jamesb a modern library has completely different requirements to when it was built.

      • Howard Reply

        I disagree that the requirements of a modern library are ‘completely different’, and I am not sure that is what Jamesb is saying above. Hove Library has computers that provide free internet access and there are community activities there. It’s not mired in the dark ages and it is not honest for the council leader to imply that it is.

        So, the musuem has better car parking facilities – whoop-di-do, great if you have a car and want to sit in a traffic jam while you get there. If you don’t, your transport options are rather more limited. My essential point remains – that Church Road is a more central location, and if a site has to be dispensed with, wholly or partially, the museum would be the one to go for.

        Furthermore, how would be space issue work at the museum with both a library and museum sited there? It’s a bigger site than the library, but is there really room for both? Why is the museum – also an old building – fit for this purpose, where the library building is not?

        My strong sense is that a combined museum and library in New Church Road would not do either function justice. In that location, it would lose users, and probably end up being closed. Oldest trick in the book, whether in the public or private sector: if you want to close a service down, run it down so it becomes really unattractive, drive the users away and then claim there is no demand for it. Is that what’s going on here, I wonder?

  7. Gerald Wiley Reply

    Just spotted the extreme misinformation being propagated by Phelim Mac Cafferty as leader of the Greens on Brighton & Hove Council as promoter of the Save Hove Library Online petition; and Christopher Hawtree as instigator of the Save Hove Library Facebook Community.

    On the petition it states:

    “We, the undersigned, are concerned to hear that Hove Library is potentially under threat from the cuts in this year’s Council budget.

    “We urge the City Council to reject the closure of our much-loved Library.

    “Why is this important?

    “Hove Library is well used and loved by our community. It is a lifeline to many. It is free to use and popular. It provides great value costing the council taxpayer only 32p per week per person. Our library helps our community: 34% of library users have no home internet access and 32% are jobseeking. Over 30,000 children use libraries in Brighton and Hove ranging from homework clubs to baby boogie. Over 600 people attend reading and writing workshops. Hove library is home to special collections, provides a safe space and helps break down barriers.

    Nowhere does it state that the aim is to continue library services in the Hove Museum, and the implication is that all library services will be stopped.

    This is pure scaremongering in an attempt to obtain public sympathy, and is typical of the approach we have come to expect from current, and part, Green Party councillors in pursuit of the ideological plans.

    • Howard Reply

      ‘extreme misinformation’ – bit strong, given there’s nothing that’s false in the petition wording. Or are you alleging that there is?

      You (or anyone else) haven’t answered the key point about how there can be room for decent a decent library and a decent museum on the present museum site. Without convincing evidence of how this is going to be managed in a way that is sustainable in the long term, the merger idea is a red herring anyway.

      • Gerald Wiley Reply

        @howard – it is VERY misleading as the implication is that the library will close and the facilities provided (such as free internet) will not be available at the museum site.

        As far as how much space is required for providing services at the combined site – yes – this does need to be confirmed. And is it really a major issue to walk less than 4000 yds to the new location?

        Do you know how much of the Hove Library site is actually needed to support the current services? It can’t be much as Christopher Hawtree wanted to move the museum to the Library building instead (but I don’t think he’s got any data to support this either).

        So basically your point, like those of Christopher Hawtree, are just FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and we need to see what the proposed combined site will look like.

        And I’m pleased from your previous response that needs of disabled motorists should not be considered.

        • Howard Reply

          … and still the sound of blowing tumbleweed on the key question of how to fit a quart into a pint pot.

          Sure thing it needs to be ‘confirmed’ how the library could fit into the museum! Perhaps Warren Morgan could convene a TARDIS working party?

          My guess is that pretty much all of Hove Library is needed to support current services, from the present look of it. Chris H can answer on the idea of putting the museum in there – it isn’t something I would advocate.

          As to your last barb, please don’t twist my words. Yes – the museum has a CAR PARK, the library doesn’t. Happy now?

          • Gerald Wiley

            I suggest you read Warren Morgan’s article in the Brighton & Hove Independent that the museum “will need to be extended”.

            Yes – you can not fit a quart into a pint pot, but you can review the size required, and make the destination pot bigger to the size required.

            Regarding car parking – I was talking about all the parking spaces in the area including those inside the grounds, and yes I was “twisting words” to make sure you consider ALL possible users of the library in Hove – not just those who happen to live and shop in the George Street area.

            Could it possibly be that the combined site would actually be better for everyone as a result? I don’t know – let’s see the proposed plan before jumping on a protest bandwagon – a bit like Peter James has done!

  8. Alan Reply

    This sounds like a done deal, shame those who helped elect Mr Morgan aren’t consulted. As with most council decisions, key stakeholders remain hidden.

Leave a Reply

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.