By Local Democracy Reporter
A COUNCIL has claimed it can avoid closing any of the borough’s libraries despite financial pressures.
Thurrock Council plans to guarantee the ten libraries will remain open with some being redeveloped into community hubs which will see other services integrated with the libraries.
Among them will be learning facilities, health and well-being support and arts and culture events.
Details on how the changes will be funded are limited but it is stated in the strategy that it will come from a “mixture of council investment and exploring income generation through different means”.
It adds: “We are committed to exploring new services that have potential to generate income and meet local need. All fees and charges applied and collected through the library service will be ring-fenced as income to the service to help develop future provision.”
The new services may include vending machines, acting as collection points for deliveries and providing space for hire for local small businesses.
The strategy has been published following a public consultation that took place earlier this year. More than 800 responses were received and 89pc of said they supported more community activity taking place in libraries.
Councillor Deborah Huelin, cabinet member for communities, said: “At a time when many local authorities are planning to cut back and reduce their service we are looking to not only retain all of our libraries but enhance and improve them so they are fit to serve our communities for years to come.
“We know from our public consultation that our communities not only value their libraries but also use them a great deal and we want to make sure that they have access to the best buildings, facilities and equipment and ensure that we maintain a community centred service which puts our residents first.
“This strategy outlines a bold future for our libraries which will ensure they thrive and grow for years to come.”
Thurrock Independent Spokesman said: “We welcome the news that all the Thurrock libraries will remain open.
“Libraries must change as usage trends change. However, this must not be used as an excuse to cut funding and make valuable and experienced staff redundant. Libraries should work to forge closer partnerships with schools, colleges and adult education to improve literacy across the borough.”
Thurrock’s pledge to keep their libraries open has come a month after Essex County Council announced that a third of the county’s libraries could close by 2024.
The county council is currently holding a 12-week public consultation which will give residents the chance to have their say on the plan to close 25 of the 74 libraries in Essex.
Since 2008 the number of books borrowed in the libraries has halved and the number of users has dropped by 31pc.