A working group is set to oversee and scrutinise the approach of Hampshire County Council’s plan to cut library stock to save £200,000 from the £1.2 million annual budget. It will also look at where libraries are and consider moving them to a more ‘cost effective’ location. In recent years the opening times of libraries has been reduced in a bid to save cash.
To save money, the council proposed several service reductions and approved the plan on November 9 – those plans could also include more parking charges being introduced and changes at tips.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Rob Humby, said the priority is to “make the most of the public’s money” and take “very seriously” the legal responsibility to ensure the delivery of a balanced budget. Failure to do so could see the council effectively declare bankruptcy.
Cllr Humby added: “This will become increasingly challenging after April 2025 as our costs keep rising, and demand continues to grow for vital local services like social care – part of a problem also facing many other local councils.
“We cannot wait for a long-term national remedy, however, so it’s up to us to look at what we can do locally to start to close the budget gap in future years and ensure we can continue to deliver services that protect those children and adults who most need our help.”
At the meeting, Hampshire’s financial strategy for 2025/26 was approved and residents will be asked to consider specific proposals.
One of the proposals identified as requiring “Stage 2 consultation” was the proposal relating to a reduction in the annual expenditure on library stock and the potential reduction of physical stock held in libraries.
By doing so, the council plans to cut the amount of money spent on new physical and digital library items by £200,000. This will result in a 17 per cent decrease from the usual £1.2 million spent annually on library stock, including books and digital resources.
To oversee and scrutinise the approach and outcomes of the “Stage 2 Consultation” about this proposal, the Children and Young People Select Committee agreed to create a task and finish working group that will assist the Children’s Services Directorate with the decision-making process concerning libraries.
The cross-party group is made up of eight Children and Young People Select Committee members. Five are from the Conservative Group, two from the Liberal Democrat Group, and one from the Independent Group.
After the second consultation, the group will meet to provide feedback to officers and agree on its report to the Children and Young People Select (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee.
The council’s library service currently holds 3.9 million physical book issues and more than 1.8 million digital issues (eBooks, eAudiobooks, ePress) a year.