Lack of funds has brought a halt to proposals for the remodelling of Bath Central Library at the Podium by Bath & North East Somerset Council.
The scheme – which proposes a number of council and partner services move into a new-look library alongside the closure of the existing one stop shop in Manvers Street has been put on hold.
The decision to freeze the proposal follows a review of capital projects in the light of challenging council budget pressures which require £50m of savings over the next five years and as a result no remodelling work will be carried out at this time on the Podium site.
The council remains committed to a library at the Podium in Bath and its successful wider Modern Libraries programme of capital investment to secure the future of the library service in Bath and North East Somerset.
The programme also includes more community-run libraries, a mobile service, more integrated library and information services as in Keynsham and Midsomer Norton, and new ways of working. The programme is saving £350,000 annually.
The council continues to improve access to library services across the area for example by replacing the mobile library vehicle, extending the ‘click and collect’ scheme for books through the roll-out of more community libraries, which see volunteers run local library services with the support of professional library staff. The ‘Love Weston’ Community library opened in October, joining the new Saltford community library which also incorporates a post office. In addition, a new community library has recently opened in Bishop Sutton, with Timsbury opening at the end of the month and more in the pipeline.
Councillor Karen Warrington, Cabinet Member for Transformation and Customer Services, said:
“I am committed to providing a modern and sustainable library service across our area, despite the very challenging budget savings we have to make. We have seen local support for community libraries across the district including at Weston and Moorland Road libraries in Bath. As a result, we have been able to make savings and secure local provision by working with local communities, and I want to see more of that.
“However our proposals for Bath central library have been more complex and have not always been well-received by everyone. With this in mind and with a challenging budget to set ahead of us, the decision has been made to freeze further work at the Podium but continue to deliver on other improvements identified as part of the Modern Libraries programme. It has been a difficult decision to make but a prudent one and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the design proposals for the library to date and who continue to support the library service.”
Councillor Richard Samuel (Walcot), the Lib Dem spokesperson on community services, commented:
“The Lib Dems have been saying all year that the proposals to integrate the One Stop Shop into Bath Central Library were unworkable and doomed to failure. The project was expensive, poorly thought-through, and opposed by the vast majority of library users.
“In fact, this whole process has been a huge waste of money and time – particularly for the local people who gave up their time to help with the design engagement sessions.
“I spoke at both the recent Cabinet and Council meetings about the failures in this project yet neither the Leader or Cabinet member were prepared to tell the truth about the current state of play. Indeed Cllr Warrington was telling the Bath Chronicle only last week that building works were due to start in the New Year.
“Clearly, putting the project on hold is code for kicking it into the long grass until after the elections next May. The Conservatives should face facts, listen to the public, and cancel the scheme entirely, rather than try to save face by blaming a capital review.”