Councillors in Tenby have agreed to provide funding towards helping to keep one of the town’s ‘vital services’ open for the community.
At this month’s meeting of the Town Council, Pembrokeshire County Council’s head of cultural, leisure, registration and tourism services Mike Cavanagh attended to discuss potential cuts to the town’s library service, indicating that the Local Authority would press ahead with a complete day closure, reducing the facility’s opening hours to three-and-a-half-days per week, unless the Town Council could help with a ‘financial contribution’ towards the library to maintain service at current levels.
This year, Mr Cavanagh explained that sadly PCC was facing its biggest financial challenge ever and were looking at a £25 million reduction in budget.
Pointing to a recent survey of Tenby residents, Mr Cavanagh stated: “It is heart-warming to see that so many people feel that the library has had a positive impact on their lives - quite a few asking for the library to remain open and expand its hours, rather than reduce them.”
With the data showing that the library was having a positive impact on people’s lives, Mr Cavanagh explained that he did not want to close another day a week or reduce opening hours from 6 pm to 5 pm.
If the Town Council could agree to assist with funding of £13,000 annually for the next five years it would provide security for existing service provision and staff.
Cllr. Duncan Whitehurst felt that the town council should look to try to provide funding for the full amount for the next five years year if they could afford it.
“This is one place we must support as it provides a vital service,” he said.
“The library has been an asset to town for many years, we must not lose it,” agreed Cllr. Trevor Hallett. “It is not just about books but the many other services provided to people,” he added.
Cllr. Emma Lewis echoed those thoughts, adding that she was aware that many young adults in full-time employment still had no access to the internet at home.
“These are some of the people that use the library to be able to go online and access beneficial deals on home energy costs,” she said. “The library is also a place to keep warm and meet people. I fully support doing whatever we can.”
Cllr Laurence Blackhall wondered if discussions had been had around a trust arrangement for the building itself; and could savings be made this way, as charities could acquire grants that councils had no access to.
Mr. Cavanagh said it had been considered, but when examined in great detail it didn’t stack up. He said that PCC has reduced costs in the building with energy efficient insulation and lighting but at the end of the day it was an ‘old expensive building’.
He explained that ideally it would be great to move the facility, but it was hard to find a suitable location in Tenby. However, he was still looking.
Cllr. Blackhall pointed out that Tenby library is used by people from the wider area too.
“Is it just town councils that have been approached, or have other community councils also been asked?” stated Cllr. Blackhall.
Mr. Cavanagh said that community councils had been asked to possibly contribute in the past but most have pointed to their low precepts.
“It has been attempted but it is incredibly complex,” he admitted.
Cllr Charles Dale felt a 5-year agreement from TTC would provide security and give a reasonable length of time to make further decisions.
However, he was aware that there were possible partial, modular funding options the Town Council would need to consider, for example if they could only provide half the costs, it would still safeguard half the hours rather than them being lost completely. He also suggested the possibilities of external charitable grants.
Cllr Dale proposed that the Town Council make an in-principal commitment to provide financial support for the library with the finance sub-committee to look in detail as to the funding options, with all councillors in favour.