Libraries in Capital could face closures as £6.4m cuts announced

Central Library could see its opening hours reduce while other libraries could close for good.  Picture: Ian Rutherford

Central Library could see its opening hours reduce while other libraries could close for good. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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LIBRARIES in the Capital face closures, reduced opening hours and mergers as part of a £6.4 million cuts package, union leaders have warned.

Unison said all of the city’s libraries – including the historic Central Library on George IV Bridge – will have their opening hours slashed under “hidden and drastic” council cost-savings plans.

Meanwhile, mobile library stops would “vanish” and jobs would be cut from community learning and development – hitting youth work, adult education and family learning.

Amanda Kerr, Unison Edinburgh organiser, said: “[We are] concerned that the council is trying to slip these hidden and drastic cuts through without any real public consultation.

“Cuts have already been approved under the guise of ‘transformation’ but we believe that service users are unaware of what these proposals actually mean.

“Unison also believes the council may not have met its obligations under the Public Service Equality Duty. These cuts affect some of our most vulnerable and deprived citizens. Service users have a right to be properly consulted on what these cuts mean and how they will impact on our communities.

“We urge members of the public to contact their councillors before it’s too late.”

Under the council’s cost-cutting proposals, Unison warned all city libraries will be closed on Monday and Wednesday mornings, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and only on Saturday mornings.

Some libraries will continue to stand alone, while others will be combined with community centres and some will be run by local communities.

Green finance spokesman Councillor Gavin Corbett insisted it was vital residents got a chance to have their say.

He said: “Over the next six months, people in Edinburgh will see many of the chickens of last year’s budget come home to roost.

“In fact, with the fear of yet further cuts in the money given by Scottish Government to councils, the noose looks set to tighten again.

“The concern about libraries has been raised in general terms as part of the budget last year. But, of course, the devil is in the detail and it’s important that people who use services get a chance to feed in their views.”

Cllr Richard Lewis, the city’s culture leader, said: “Under the plan to save £6.4m from Lifelong Learning in 2017-18, which includes libraries, there is no intention whatsoever to close any library.

“On the contrary, the proposals are designed to ensure that all libraries remain open, albeit with some reduced opening hours.

“Libraries are one of the most valued services in the city’s care and we will do everything to make sure it remains this way In the future.

“A full process of consultation has taken place with staff and ideas have been generated to mitigate the impact of the necessary reduction in budget, which was agreed by full council after a public consultation in 2015.”