Library opening hours cut and new means tests for budding musicians
Councillor Iain McLaren defends library cuts and means testing for music tutition.
February 9, 2018 – New opening hours are set to be introduced across West Dunbartonshire’s eight libraries and young musicians face an increase in tuition fees.
The new timetable, which will be introduced by 30 June 2018, delivers 250 hours a week of service and was developed following feedback from 1,001 residents – one of the Council’s largest ever consultations. In total, more than 70% of those who responded said the new timetable fitted with when they could visit their local library.
However, some library users are sceptical as are some staff members who have told The DEMOCRAT that the consultation process was unfair.
One angry librarian said: “It’s just more cuts which have been implemented with impunity. Staff and public will be the ones who will suffer as per usual.
“The counting of ‘fors and againsts’ was flawed and unfair with people using Dalmuir Library for five minutes being equated to people using Dumbarton Library for research and study for a whole day.
“I wonder just how long it will take for it to dawn on councillors that the public are not fools and know exactly what is going on here.”
Branches will be open at the times which the council say are most popular and convenient for residents to visit, including afternoons, evenings and Saturday mornings. It also fully accommodates existing services such as Bookbug, employability sessions and Code Club.
The proposals, approved by six SNP votes to three, at the Corporate Services Committee, were developed to address higher than average costs for the service.
The council line is that currently employee costs in libraries are the second-highest in Scotland per head of population and this was in part due to branches being open at times when visitor numbers were low.
As well as the introduction of the new opening hours, councillors also approved an investment of £421,000 to fund improvements across the area’s libraries, but mostly in Clydebank.
The investment programme will begin in April and will enhance children’s areas, improve the display areas, create more welcoming help desks and also introduce movable shelving, enabling flexible use of space for activities and events. The works are intended to make the branches more welcoming and attractive environments and in turn improve visitor numbers.
In addition, means tested charges of £85 per annum will be introduced for the hire, service and repair of musical instruments, some of which would cost parents as much as £900 to buy.
Currently, most councils in Scotland charge for music tuition or instrument hire with fees ranging from £83 to £378 with an average of £230.
Pupils studying for SQA exams and those in receipt of free school meals will continue to receive free hire, while others would be charged if they wish to hire an instrument.
The charge will be the second lowest charge in Scotland. The service can also help pupils to purchase their own instruments at a discounted rate, which would avoid any charges.
Councillor Ian Dickson, Convener of Corporate Services, said: “In these tough financial times it is absolutely essential that we make the best possible use of all of our resources. We know the value our communities place on their local libraries and we were determined to protect every branch. This approach allows us to do just that, ensuring our libraries are open at the times when our residents have told us they visit most, addressing higher than average costs and generating investment across the service. The decision ensures we have a service which is responsive to the needs of our communities, accessible and fit for the future.”
Councillor Iain McLaren, Vice-Convener of Corporate Services, added: “The response to the consultation made it very clear how highly residents think of their local library. We share that view, our libraries are not only places of learning but act as hubs in each community, reducing social isolation and supporting vibrant neighbourhoods. The planned investment in the service will further enhance each branch introducing improved children’s areas, modern shelving that can be moved to create space for community events, self-service machines for loaning and returning books and more welcoming help desks.”