Controversial plans to relocate Hove Library down the road to the museum became more likely today with the release of a survey which showed 57% of city library users in favour of the move.
More than 1,000 people responded to the consultation, which asked questions about a range of proposals to the library service across Brighton and Hove, which needs to make cuts of £350,000.
But campaigners have rubbished the results, saying that the way the survey was worded was like a “ransom note”, threatening closure of suburban libraries unless Hove Library is moved and its Carnegie built home sold off.
Council leader Warren Morgan said: “I completely understand local attachment to the current Hove Library. But keeping it in that building will leave us no choice but to consider shutting other libraries to pay for it.
“So we must put services before buildings and provide the best citywide facilities with the money we have. This is a great opportunity to work with residents and library users to provide a new, improved service that is much-loved and integral to the life of Hove.”
But library campaigner Christopher Hawtree said: “The whole way in which the consultation was constructed was very mch a gun to the head, a ransom note.
“It was the council saying if you don’t move Hove Library, we will shut down all the other libraries.
“The consultation documents didn’t make it clear that it will be a much smaller library with fewer books, , which means less us and it goes into decline.
“We will keep on going, many campaigns have ups and downs. A petition of 4,000 names will be presented [to the council’s economic development committee] on Thursday.
“As Chief Justice Hewart said of Graham Greene’s libel of Shirley Temple, it’s quite simply a gross outrage.”
The consultation began in November, when the Hove Library move was one of the first details to emerge of swingeing cuts the council has made to cope with a £100m cut to its Government funding over the next four years.
The 1908 building costs £500,000 a year to run and needs £750,000 of repairs in the next five years. The plan proposes merging it with Hove Museum 300 metres west along New Church Road.
The council says a new cultural centre for Hove would be created by building an extension doubling space on the ground floor.
Consultation forms returned from 1124 people revealed 57 per cent of respondents tend to agree or strongly agree the Hove moves; 38 per cent tend to disagree or strongly disagree and the rest were undecided.
Other changes aimed at protecting the library service, while coping with 20 per cent savings on its £5.1m budget by 2020, are:
- Increasing Libraries Extra provision, where some libraries are unstaffed for periods, as already operates successfully at Woodingdean and Portslade. This would increase available hours from 362 to 701 a week, at reduced cost.
- Library provision in Hollingbury will be through the Hollingbury and Patcham Children’s Centre. There would also be a community library collection in the Old Boat community centre serving all ages.
- Extending the Home Delivery Service for less-mobile people.
- Developing a funding strategy to increase income.
The existing Hove Library building would need to be sold if the museum extension is to be built. A decision on any sale would go to a future meeting of the policy and resources committee.
Consultation also involved interviews and exit surveys with thousands of adults and children, lapsed borrowers and focus groups. The recent open consultation running since November, including the Hove proposal, drew 1124 responses – significantly larger than recent consultations on children’s centres or the council budget.
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