Two Independent councillors are trying to save a library from closure as the council prepares to decide a number of cuts in its budget for the coming financial year.
North Portslade councillors Anne Pissaridou and Peter Atkinson are battling to keep Mile Oak Library open, with the prposed closure expected to save just £35,000.
Councillor Pissaridou plans to put forward an amendment to Brighton and Hove City Council’s “budget council” meeting on Thursday 23 February.
She said: “It is important for the residents that the two elected ward councillors work together to oppose the closing of our community library.
“I am pleased that Councillor Peter Atkinson is supporting my amendment and has agreed to second it at the budget council meeting.”
Councillor Atkinson had previously said that he was looking into the council’s progress in moving the library into a community hub.
According to the council’s draft budget, closing Mile Oak Library could save the council £35,000 a year.
But the budget report said that the library was the most expensive to run in Brighton and Hove, with each visit costing £19.02. Other community libraries cost on average 78p a visit.
The disparity has been blamed in part in the big drop in the number of visitors since the library reopened after a two-year closure because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Last year, the council explored moving the library, in Chalky Road, Portslade, into a room in the nearby sports centre, which was being used by two snooker leagues.
The plan was shelved – and the library, based on the site of the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA), stayed put.
The original purpose-built library opened in the 1970s when the boys and girls secondary schools merged to become Portslade School and Community College – later Portslade Community College (PCC) and now PACA.
It was intended to help link the school and community and was based yards away from the adult and community education centre entrance.
The library itself was retained as a “community asset” when the school became an academy and PACA’s buildings were modernised in a multimillion-pound revamp, with the 1970s library building being demolished.
When PACA’s new wing was granted planning permission, it was on condition that the library remained open to the community.
Councillor Pissaridou said: “Mile Oak Library is the only community space in North Portslade ward left where council services are still provided and recently the only warm space designated for local people.
“It has been part of and within the school premises for over 40 years.
“Hangleton and Portslade libraries are not viable alternatives. For many, they are not easily accessible and unaffordable for families.
“With the new development now complete and an increasing population in the ward, already by hundreds, there is now an ongoing need to maintain library facilities.
“But there has been no consultation with the community on the proposal in the budget to remove funding and close the library.
“Therefore, I have put in my amendment to save this valuable community space.”
The council is trying to plug a budget gap of £14 million – down from an earlier estimate of £21 million – between expected income and outgoings in 2023-24.
Overall, most Brighton and Hove households can expect a 5.2 per cent increase in their council tax bills when the East Sussex Fire Authority and the Sussex police and crime commissioner’s precepts are included.
If councillors vote for the proposed 4.99 per cent council tax rise next Thursday (23 February), the bill for a typical band D property will rise by £109.60 from £2,118.31 to £2,227.91.
The budget council meeting is due to start at 4.30pm on Thursday 23 February at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.