More than £1m slashed from library services in Lancashire

Lancashire libraries have had their funding cut by more than £1m over the past year.

Wednesday, 21st November 2018, 5:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st November 2018, 5:29 pm
In real terms, libraries Lancashire were 1.45m worse off in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17

The Library Campaign, a national charity, says that further cuts to stretched library services is "like taking a hammer to a wall that's already full of holes".

In real terms, libraries Lancashire were £1.45m worse off in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17, according to financial data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Analysis shows that council spending on libraries fell from £13.62m to £12.17m, after the figures are adjusted for inflation. That's a decrease of 11 per cent.

Laura Swaffield, chair of the Library Campaign, said that years of cuts have led to councils "salami-slicing" libraries, by cutting opening hours and employing less skilled staff.

She said: "Libraries are being hollowed out so much that people have forgotten what a library should be. For the last 30 years, libraries have had more than their fair share of cuts, so making further cuts has a disproportionate effect."

She said that some councils have turned libraries over to volunteers, or removed staff altogether, in order to cut costs.Although councils are legally required to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service, there is no specific funding provision for libraries from central government.

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That means the decision about how much funding to provide to libraries rests solely with the local authority.An online petition for a ring-fenced library grant, which would protect library funding from being spent elsewhere, was rejected by the Government earlier this month despite attracting more than 30,000 signatures.

In its response, the Government said that its policy was to continue "giving greater funding flexibility to local authorities".

But the Library Campaign said that this is "just one example of how cowardly and cynical central government is, leaving it up to the council to make whatever cuts it likes".

Miss Swaffield said: "Having a ring-fenced grant would help, but what would really help is to have a government that gave a damn about libraries."

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that £1 billion of extra funding would be made available for local government to "address pressures on their needs".

An MHCLG spokesperson said: "Local authorities are responsible for their own funding decisions, but over the next two years, we are providing councils with £90.7 billion to help them meet the needs of their residents. We have also invested almost £4 million on innovative libraries projects to increase access to new technology and improve people's digital skills, literacy, health and wellbeing.”

In England, spending on library services has decreased by 5% in real terms, from £760 million in 2016-17 to £720 million in 2017-18.