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Bridgend Council to engage with public on cuts to library services

Porthcawl Library (Pic: Google Maps)

BRIDGEND Council is set to begin public engagement with residents this month over potential cuts to its library and cultural services.

The move comes after the authority agreed to make a number of savings in the budget for the 2024-25 financial year, following what has been described as “unprecedented” financial pressures.

It could see the council’s investment reduced in a number of areas provided by partners at the Awen Cultural Trust, with a reported amount of £360,000 worth of savings needing to be made.

Some of these savings would include a reduction of £50,000 from the library book renewal fund for this financial year, as well as a £15,000 subsidy for Bridgend Youth Theatre being withdrawn.

There could also be a public consultation over changes to the borough’s library services, which could see a reduction to opening hours by around 60 hours per week across the entire library estate, as well as ending the local books on wheels service which currently delivers books to 345 households.

The report read: “The financial challenges that the council is now facing has meant that there has been a need for all service areas to identify areas where financial efficiencies can be made, and this has also included cultural services.”

Speaking at the meeting Cllr Jane Gebbie said she had a number of concerns over the changes, particularly when it came to the books on wheels service which served an ageing population that was in need.

Officers noted that the changes would be likely to have an impact on vulnerable people in the county borough adding that as well as public engagement there would also be a need for a strategy to be brought forward.

Cllr Huw David said: “There are potential implications to these proposals, but it’s important that we undertake consultation and then we reflect on that consultation in the detail of those proposals. However, a decision has been made around the budget and therefore savings will have to be made, but its about how we make those savings.”

Richard Hughes, chief executive of Awen Cultural Trust, added: “Awen recognises the very challenging financial position that our local authority partners face. We will be working closely with them in trying to ensure that whatever decisions are taken, the impact on our users, audiences and beneficiaries are mitigated as much as possible.”

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A council spokesperson said they will now publicise details on how people can  have their say in the discussion around library and cultural services as soon as the consultation is ready.