THE DECISION to cut library opening hours over lunchtimes will stand after a challenge by opposition councillors failed.
Green Party and Independent Councillors called a “call-in committee” meeting this week, the first in almost four years, to try and reverse the Council’s decision on lunchtime library closures.
Solihull Council approved Cabinet member for Community Services, Coun Kate Wild’s proposal to cut opening times at several branch libraries, mostly at lunchtimes, down by 35 hours, eight per cent.
But opposition councillors are claiming that the consultation into library opening hours, which is being used to demonstrate support for the closures, was ‘biased and relied on skewed questions’.
Coun Andy Hodgson, (Green, Shirley South) said: “Closing all branch libraries at lunchtimes is just the thin end of the wedge. Having more sporadic opening hours will just mean more confusion about when libraries are open, meaning fewer people will go to libraries at all, justifying more cuts in the future.
“Those aged 19-24, in work or full time training and education will be disproportionately affected.”
Coun Linda Brown (Independent Ratepayers, Blythe) added: “It will disadvantage a lot of people. It’s not just for golden oldies. There is a vibrant community who want to use the libraries at these times.”
But Coun Wild (Con, St Alphege) said the council had been left with little other option if they wanted to keep the borough’s 13 libraries open.
“It grieves me to make these decisions but if you look up and down the country, they are closing libraries.
“We never put that forward as an option.
“Lunchtime closures are regrettable but what we all need to consider is that staff on lunchtimes is expensive.
“Avoiding lunchtime closures would results in disproportional reduction in hours to other libraries at other times.”
Coun Wild said plans to co-locate services, such as adult social care and childrens’ centres, with libraries would take too long to affect the medium term savings target but were a future consideration.
The proposal was supported by five votes to three.