CHIPPING Sodbury Library is being earmarked for closure under council plans to save up to £1million, the Gazette can reveal.
The small library on High Street is costing hard-up South Gloucestershire Council £42,000 a year to run but many of its visitors also use the much bigger Yate Library less than a mile away, leaving only 194 unique members who are costing the authority £216 each.
Campaigners devastated at the potential loss of the much-loved library have this week launched a fight to save the facility, which opens two days and two mornings a week.
Town and district councillor Rob Creer (Con, Chipping Sodbury) said: “I know this is the Conservatives putting forward an agenda but I am going to fight to save the library.
“I was aware there was going to be a review of services at the council but after looking through pages of documents it was a surprise to see Chipping Sodbury Library could be affected.
“It is not just used for getting books out but for internet access and as a social hub. I am urging people to let the council know their views when a consultation on the proposals goes live.”
Chipping Sodbury resident Sarah Todd, who uses the library every week with six-year-old son Olly, said losing the town’s library would be a ‘travesty’.
She told the Gazette: “We go there every Tuesday after school to take out books and hire a DVD. Olly loves it and there is something special about going to a library and choosing the books yourself.
“The staff there are so friendly and we like it because it is quite small and very welcoming. It would be a complete travesty to shut it.”
Long-term library campaigner Sodbury town councillor Wendy Whittle is adding her voice to the fight to keep the facility open.
“It is a meeting place for local people as well as a library,” she said. “It is really friendly and people use it for computer access and events for young children as well as the books. Many of the residents at the new McCarthy and Stone elderly people’s complex use the library and for them to go to Yate and carry lots of heavy books back on the bus is just not practical.
“Our library is used and can be quite full and to close it will be a real loss, especially with all the additional houses being built in Chipping Sodbury.”
South Gloucestershire Council pays building owners Chipping Sodbury Town Lands’ Charity a peppercorn rent of £9,000 a year but staffing costs £33,000. As well as shutting the library in Chipping Sodbury, the council is recommending it suspends the district’s home library service and reduces opening hours at its remaining 12 libraries by 19 per cent saving £500,000.
A consultation due to be discussed by the council's communities committee tonight (January 20) proposes two other options in addition to the closures - to run minimal staffing at smaller libraries saving over £600,000 or close all its libraries except the busiest in Kingswood, Yate, Patchway, Thornbury and Bradley Stoke saving £1million.
A council spokesman said: “Any service changes would be subject to consultation, which is proposed to begin on February 22 for 12 weeks, subject to the Committee’s decision. Implementation of any changes would not take place until October 2017.
“The council does need to save money, however wherever possible we will look to work with partners to maintain and potentially re-provide services and we would look forward to constructive engagement with the community on possible options throughout the consultation process.”