Twist in the plot sees city reject library closure plans
CITY leaders have rejected plans to close down several of the Capital's libraries, but a review is still to be carried out that could see many having their hours slashed.
Council officials had recommended finding 1.5 million of savings from the city's 26 libraries, including shutting down some, reducing the opening hours of others and cutting the number of janitors that work in them.
But the Liberal Democrat/SNP administration today announced that it is pledging not to shut any libraries either this year or next year.
The total amount it intends to save from library cuts has also been reduced to 550,000.
Councillor Deidre Brock, the city's culture and leisure leader, said: "We've taken the decision to not close any libraries. We won't close any in the lifetime of this administration.
"We are the first Unesco City of Literature and it is very important that our administration shows how much we support that. Libraries sit at the heart of our city and we need to show how much we want them to remain there."
She said the details of the 550,000 of savings that will be imposed on libraries are to be revealed on Thursday.
"Reduced opening hours is one of the things we are considering, but in some libraries we will actually extend opening hours," said Cllr Brock.
"We will look very much at individual libraries and the needs of the local community before making changes.
"Although there are uncertain times ahead for all local authorities, we'll be doing everything we can to ensure the people of Edinburgh continue to enjoy an excellent library service."
The changes to the original proposals were made following feedback received during the budget consultation exercise.
It does mean that additional savings will have to be found elsewhere from the council to cover the 1m reduction in library-related savings.
Future library savings are expected to come from making libraries part of "community hubs", offering a wide range of other services and information. New libraries like Drumbrae are being combined with other services.
There is also growing use of self-service facilities within libraries.
Trade unions have said that previous cuts to the service, including a reduction in the number of librarians, have sent staff morale plummeting.
John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of Unison, said: "It is difficult to say if you are going to be punched three times then you're only punched twice that you've done well."We welcome the fact they won't cut as much as they were going to, but the cuts were ill thought out in the first place.
"Libraries across the country are facing tough times and they are a shining beacon for everyone in terms of education, so they really should not be cut."
Full details of the council's 1 billion budget are due to be finalised at a meeting in the City Chambers on Thursday.
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