Communities to be consulted on Fife’s proposed library closures

editorial image

The future of libraries across Fife will be decided following consultation with communities where closures have been proposed.

Fife Cultural Trust has been looking for ways to save £813,000 – on top of cuts in excess of £900,000 which have already been delivered over the last two years.

Stuart Cross, chairman of the Fife Cultural Trust board, welcomed the cross-party approach of the Council.

Stuart Cross, chairman of the Fife Cultural Trust board, welcomed the cross-party approach of the Council.

It’s also been reviewing the library network, which it manages and operates in Fife on behalf of the Council, with the aim of creating a more cost effective model, delivering services which are fit-for-purpose and sustainable for many years to come.

The trust believes its ‘hub and spoke’ model is the way forward, but the proposals also include the closure of 16 libraries and will result in 25 job losses, although there would be no compulsory redundancies.

The proposals were submitted to Fife Council’s executive committee yesterday (Tuesday), with members asked to approve the new model and a programme of community engagement.

However, after concerns were raised by Councillor Brian Goodall, SNP group leader, and following a brief meeting between councillors and cultural trust board members, it was decided that public consultations would be carried out before the executive committee makes a decision on the proposals at its meeting on September 29.

Councillor Susan Leslie expressed her anger at the "total disregard" shown to the scrutiny committee.

Councillor Susan Leslie expressed her anger at the "total disregard" shown to the scrutiny committee.

Stuart Cross, chairman of the cultural trust board, welcomed the cross-party support, saying it was a sensible approach to what was undoubtedly a sensitive issue.

“No one would ever be happy to propose closing libraries, but we have to look to deliver a library service for the long term,” he said. “From our perspective, consultation the public was always going to be a big part of the process for us. If someone comes forward with a different model then we’ll look at it against the criteria we have used for this process.”

However, Mr Cross stressed the service needed to modernise and that savings had to be made.

He expected the management fee from the Council for running Fife’s libraries, theatres, museums and galleries – currently £8.7 million – would continue to be “squeezed” over the next few years, and he said the trust was working to grow the income it earned from other sources – £2.7 million last year. It’s currently reviewing its catering arrangements and is looking to maximise income from lets.

Councillor Gavin Yates, spokesman on cultural issues, praised the extensive work done by the trust in reviewing all its operations and putting together proposals for to create a viable library service for the long term.

He said: “I still believe the trust has got it right, but the exact shape of the library network is up for scrutiny. A number of the buildings are not fit for purpose and, going forward, the trust wants is looking to re-invest in a more sustainable service.”

Cllr Yates said even if the closures went ahead, Fife’s network of 35 libraries would still be the third biggest of all local authority areas in Scotland.

However, SNP councillor Neale Hanvey pointed out: “Fife might go from first to third in terms of the number of libraries, but it would go from ninth to 19th in terms of libraries per head of population.”

The proposals for the future of Fife’s library network include the closure of 16 libraries.

Glenwood, Thornton, Markinch, Pitteuchar in the Glenrothes area, and Kinghorn are all earmarked for closure in the current financial year, but Fife Council will provide funding from its reserves to support these libraries until the consultation process has been completed and a final decision has been made on the future model.

It’s proposed Crail, Lundin Links, Pittenweem, Colinsburgh, Falkland, Freuchie, East Wemyss, Bowhill and Crossgates libraries will close in 2016/17, and Townhill and Abbeyview (Dunfermline) in 2017/18.

Sinclairtown Library in Kirkcaldy is due to close in March 2016, with the service relocating to the new Kirkcaldy East Campus in August 2016, and Anstruther library is scheduled to close in June 2017, with services moving to the new Waid Academy Campus in August 2017.

The mobile library service will provide cover in areas where static libraries are removed, and there is also a ‘housebound service’ available.

PCs will be relocated from libraries which are closed to either suitable facilities in the locality, or the nearest available library.

Under the proposed ‘hub and spoke’ model, hub libraries – generally situated in the bigger towns such as Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes, Dunfermline, Leven, Methil, St Andrews and Cupar – will be open for 40 hours or more each week. Spoke libraries – including Burntisland, Anstruther, Cadham (Glenrothes) and Templehall (Kirkcaldy) – will open between 20 and 40 hours each week. And satellite libraries – such as Kennoway, Buckhaven, Tayport, Newport, Newburgh, Elie, Ladybank and Leslie – will open up to 20 hours each week.

The proposals were put together after an extensive review of the library network. This included looking at access to reasonable alternative provision; current and trend performance, including footfall; maintaining a geographical spread across Fife; and the physical state of buildings.

As well as consultation with service users and the wider public, the proposals will be examined in detail by the Council’s scrutiny committee.

Councillor Susan Leslie, who chairs the scrutiny committee, expressed her anger and frustration that the proposals were only being passed for examination at this stage.

She said that over the last 18 months, her committee had repeatedly requested details of the ‘hub and spoke’ model so councillors could have input into what it might mean for their communities, but officers had consistently failed to come forward with any report.

Cllr Leslie described the situation as “appalling”, adding: “It shows a total disregard for the role of the scrutiny committee.”