Residents have the chance to shape the future of the borough’s library service by taking part in a consultation which starts from today (Monday 30 November). The survey runs until Friday 29 January 2021.
Continued government changes to council funding and the Covid-19 crisis mean the council has to save £30m by 2024. This is on top of £200m already saved since 2010 because of government austerity.
To do this, savings have to be made across the council including reducing the cost of the library service, which is £4.4 million a year. The savings proposed will deliver savings of £1.6 million.
Digital innovations introduced in recent years including online services mean that £600,000 of the savings can be made without reducing services.
However, a further £1m needs to be found and the council is consulting on options to achieve this. The options are based on analysing data showing the usage of three libraries and five Idea Stores.
Until now, Tower Hamlets has kept all its libraries and Idea Stores open in the face of continued government cuts that have seen 778 libraries close nationally since austerity was introduced a decade ago.
Many continue to have high usage, partly because Tower Hamlets was one of the first local authorities to create community hubs that put a library, cafe, adult education classes and computer access under one roof – known as Idea Stores.
The options being proposed also include a five-year plan to invest in four main Idea Stores in Chrisp Street, Bow, a new site in the Isle of Dogs to replace the Canary Wharf site and at Idea Store Whitechapel. This investment will include redesigning areas of the buildings and continuing to develop the digital offer to residents.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Like all local authorities across the country, Tower Hamlets is having to make significant savings to balance its budget and protect essential services.
“The options under consultation would look to build on the changing ways in which residents are using are Idea Stores and libraries – building on our digital offer and offering a flexible service to meet the needs of our changing communities.”
The consultation also sets out various money saving options, including changes to opening hours and days and possible closure of our least used sites.
Cllr Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit added: “Our Idea Stores are really well used and much-loved community hubs and we want to make sure we maximise all the resources we have available in this difficult financial climate to preserve our amazing library service.
“Please get involved and help shape the future of our libraries.”
You can respond to our online survey at talktowerhamlets.gov.uk/ideastores