SOME of York’s libraries could be at risk of being forced to close if threatened budget cuts go ahead, opposition councillors in York say.

The warning comes as the full extent of the cuts being proposed to the budget for Explore York Libraries and Archives becomes clear.

York’s ruling Labour administration say they want to trim £300,000 from the library service’s budget next year, followed by another £300,000 the year after, as they attempt to plug a £40 million black hole in council finances over the next three years.

Quizzed by The Press, however, the authority has admitted that those cuts would be cumulative.

This means that, if they go ahead, from April 1 this year Explore's annual council funding would be cut by £300,000, from £2.6 million to £2.3 million.

York Press: Inside York Explore, York's central libraryInside York Explore, York's central library (Image: Newsquest)

It would then be cut by a further £300,000 from April next year, down to £2 million - a total cut of £600,000, or more than 20 per cent of the Explore budget, in just two years.

Even worse, the authority admits that that reduced budget would then become the norm for the rest of the council's 15-year funding contract with Explore.

The contract, signed in 2019, is theoretically due to run until 2034 - meaning that, under the proposals, the city's library service could potentially lose £5.7 million under the remaining ten-year lifetime of its funding contract when compared to the funding it would have received were there to be no cuts.


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York’s opposition Liberal Democrats today condemned as ‘callous’ the proposed cuts to a library service recently hailed in an independent government report as an ‘exemplar’ for the way library services should be run.

York Press: Cllr Darryl SmalleyCllr Darryl Smalley (Image: Supplied)

Cllr Darryl Smalley, the Lib Dem former executive member for culture, said: “The £600,000 reduction over the next two years for York’s libraries is a blow for them at exactly the wrong time.

“Libraries… are places that help end social isolation and offer warm spaces for vulnerable residents to keep away from the cold. Computers are used by those that cannot afford to own their own, community groups use them as meeting places and libraries are a place for children to learn and develop.

“For York’s Labour council to implement a 20 per cent cut to the York Explore contract is callous.

“This will mean libraries are at risk of closing, losing their valued and experienced staff, or opening times drastically reduced. We call on Labour to be honest with the public which libraries are at risk, and ultimately rethink these proposals.”

But Labour hit back, accusing the Lib Dems of playing ‘party politics’ and insisting Explore York ought to take its ‘fair share’ of funding cuts.

York Press: Cllr Jo ColesCllr Jo Coles (Image: Supplied)

Cllr Jo Coles, the council’s executive member for health and wellbeing, said: "It's so disappointing to see the Liberal Democrats trying to play party politics over ... the £14.3 million in cuts the council has to make due to chronic underfunding of local authorities over the last 14 years.

“We have brilliant libraries across the city - the best book I read last year was recommended by a librarian at Acomb Explore - but we also have an ageing population that we have a legal duty to care for.

“Recent council administrations cut millions from services supporting vulnerable adults and children while libraries funding actually increased; the proposed changes are about asking Explore to take a fair share of the burden."

Labour also points out that it remains committed to a £7.7 million programme of capital investment in York’s libraries - although this is for spending on buildings, and is entirely separate from the annual revenue funding Explore receives for running the city’s 15 libraries and the city archives.

Why are the cuts being proposed?

The proposed cuts to Explore’s annual funding are part of a package of budget cuts and increased charges - including a charge for emptying green bins - by which the Labour-run council hopes to save £14.3 million next year.

It says those savings are needed to help plug a £40 million black hole in council finances over the next three years.

But Explore York has already pointed out that it is an independently-run mutual funded by the council, under contract, to run York’s library service.

It says the council cannot arbitrarily cut its funding without first getting Explore’s agreement.

Other savings proposed by Labour in its draft budget include:

  • a £46.50 per year ‘subscription service’ for green bins to be emptied
  • parking charges across the city to increase by 30p an hour - with the standard all-day charge in city car parks raised to £20
  • a city-wide review of personal care and support
  • a review of contracts for voluntary and community groups.

The council's budget for the next year starting in April is set to be finalised at a council Executive meeting on February 22.

The Liberal Democrats have started a petition opposing the planned library cuts. You can sign it here