Hartlepool libraries’ hours are cut to save cash - but closures are avoided

Hartlepool's Central Library on York Road.
Hartlepool's Central Library on York Road.

Branch libraries will close on more days as part of cost-saving measures to the service.

Hartlepool Borough Council looked at opening hours, possible mergers and greater use of volunteers as part of a library review.

It attracted more than 1,500 responses from users, one of the highest ever for a council consultation exercise.

No branch closures were considered, but some libraries will close for one extra day a week and all will shut an hour earlier.

Various fees and charges will be increased as part of the changes to achieve £90,000 of savings in next year’s budget.

Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “The proposals put us in a good state to keep libraries and still make substantial savings.”

Under the changes, Owton Manor Library will close on Tuesdays, Seaton Carew on Mondays and Throston Grange on Fridays.

Headland Library is currently only open on two weekdays, and it was not proposed to alter that.

But in future all libraries will close at 5pm instead of 6pm and one hour earlier on a Saturday.

The cost for community groups to hire libraries out of hours will increase from £11.50 to £18 with daytime fees going up from £11.50 to £14 in line with community centre rates.

IT membership will also go up from £2 a year to £5 and reservation fees introduced of 20p or 40p.

Use of the Central Library’s community room out-of-hours will be limited to two nights to save on staff costs.

The council will explore introducing volunteering opportunities.

Ms Ogden said it was not intended for them to directly replace paid library staff.

But council union representative Edwin Jeffries said there would need to be “significant discussion” with staff around any reduction in their hours.

A report said a staff restructure across the service would be necessary, but the changes should avoid the need for compulsory redundancies.

The changes were approved by the Regeneration Committee.

Councillor Paul Thompson said: “We’ve got to do everything we possibly can to make sure something that might not be a statutory service is still maintained because of the impact it has on adult literacy and employment.”

Committee chairman Coun Kevin Cranney added: “I’m pleased with the direction in trying to avoid closures and glad that option has not been included.”