The decrease in income generated by the county council’s network of libraries during the height of Covid-19 restrictions has been revealed to councillors.
And despite some improvement, councillors have been told that it ‘will take some time to recover to pre-Covid levels’.
The position was reported to a cross-Party group of county councillors on Wednesday, January 26, during a meeting to scrutinise budget proposals for education, libraries and lifelong learning.
It was reported that in the years before the pandemic, the county’s libraries were generating in excess of £800k from fees, charges, events and donations.
But reports produced as part of the council’s budget-setting process show that in 2020/21 – when there were library restrictions in place – that dropped by 90 per cent, to £79k.
And although the report says that there has been some degree of improvement since April (2021) – when library restrictions started to ease – it stresses that it will take some time to recover.
“The current position is that the Library Service still has some considerable way to go before it can restore all services to pre-pandemic levels, but the current recovery trajectory is positive,” says the report.
Last year the county council had planned for the libraries to be transferred to a specially-established public service mutual, Libraries for Life – which was expected to save the council £500,000 a year.
But those plans have been shelved, in the wake of the pandemic, and the libraries are to continue being operated ‘in-house’ by the county council.
The information was presented as part of a session designed to scrutinise the budget proposals for education, libraries and lifelong learning on Wednesday (January 26).
The session is part of the county council’s budget-setting process, which will end with a meeting of the full council on February 22..
The budget proposals also include a planned capital spend of almost £2.5m for a ‘modern and fit for purpose’ Ware Library.
But the bulk of that sum (£1.97m) is expected to be spent on the new library in 2023/24.