12 October 2015

Hove library could be integrated into new cultural centre nearby

Hove Library could be integrated into a new cultural centre in Hove Museum’s building as part of plans to modernise the service.

The option is being explored as the council faces rising costs and its biggest-ever reductions in funding from central government.  It would entail selling the current library building.

The financial shortfall means that the city-wide library service alone needs to save £1.34m in the next four years.  Across the whole council, savings of almost £70m have to be made in the next four years.

If agreed, the proposal would entail integrating the library service into a new cultural centre with Hove Museum a few hundred yards away in New Church Road.  Any change would be subject to extensive public consultation between mid-November and next February.

Officers have told councillors in a briefing that including staffing and running costs, the authority faces a bill of £2.5m to keep the library open for the next five years.

As a Grade 2 listed building, the premises are hard to upgrade cost-effectively, making modern IT cabling or revenue-generating measures such as a shop or café difficult.  Various parts of the building cannot affordably be made accessible to disabled staff or users.

Officers have advised councillors that the most successful and cost-effective libraries these days tend to be located alongside other council and community facilities in multi-purpose buildings.

Council leader Warren Morgan said:  “Relocating Hove Library offers the biggest single potential saving with the least amount of damage to the overall service.  We could vacate the building and still provide a good service for Hove in a new way. In times of such huge financial stringency from central government it makes sense to concentrate on the services we offer, rather than the buildings from which they are delivered.  In fact, that building makes a modern service more difficult.”

Nothing has yet been decided.  Any change would need to go before cross-party meetings of the economic development and culture committee in coming months.   A final decision on the library proposals would not take place until March 2016 when a new Libraries Plan has to go to full council.

Any implementation would not take place before 2017.

External advisors have told the council the library building could fetch around £1m at auction.  However officers say the biggest financial benefits are in reduced running costs rather than any sale.