Library closures move is shelved

Christine Kerr is delighted Piershill Library has been handed a reprieve
Christine Kerr is delighted Piershill Library has been handed a reprieve
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LIBRARIES which were to be forced to close on Sundays are set to win a reprieve after thousands of residents forced a rethink.

Six libraries were to become six-day operations and others set to close earlier in the day as part of £550,000 of savings to be found from the department’s budget this year.

However, the move is set to be reversed in part after nearly 10,000 city residents responded to a huge consultation exercise.

Sunday opening times will remain at Muirhouse, Newington, Oxgangs, Portobello, Wester Hailes and McDonald Road, with the latter seeing extended hours to reflect the number of members.

Meanwhile, Ratho, Granton and South Queensferry will now remain open on Thursdays.

During the consultation, 80 per cent of those who use Ratho Library had said plans to cut its hours would make the service more difficult to use.

The proposals to grant the reprieve followed the strength of feeling from the consultation and finding an extra £300,000 from reserves.

The Evening News understands that council chiefs had been spending six-figure sums on hiring agency staff, but that will now be axed.

Councillors on the culture and leisure committee approved the move this week, although Labour and Green representatives have asked for the decision to be put to full council next month. Community groups and local residents have welcomed the move.

One that had faced reduced hours was Piershill Library, off Portobello Road, which was set to close on Monday and Wednesday mornings and on Tuesday evening.

Christine Kerr, chair of Northfield Willowbrae Community Council, said: “We hold meetings for the crime prevention panel so I’m very pleased to hear it won’t be closing. Young mothers and their toddlers in particular use the library in the mornings so it would have been a drawback.

“There is a great demand to use the library – it’s bad enough it has to close at 8pm.”

Councillor Gary Peacock, who represents the Craigentinny/Duddingston ward, said reduced hours would have had a significant impact on the local community.

He said: “Piershill would have lost nine hours in opening times, more than any other in the city, and we felt it would have been very detrimental to the community.”

Although the £300,000 extra funding will mitigate the budget cuts to an extent, Labour said it still had concerns that the remaining £250,000 could affect the library service.

Councillor Gordon Munro, who asked for the decision to go before the full council, said: “We’re concerned smaller libraries such as Balgreen and Balerno could end up at risk.”

Cllr Deidre Brock, the city’s culture and leisure convener, said: “At 10,000 responses this is one of the biggest consultations we’ve ever had and it reflects how important libraries are.”