Residents will enjoy a better library experience says the leader of Peterborough City Council after a new model for the service was formally agreed.
Councillor Marco Cereste believes introducing self-service technology will improve the city’s 10 libraries which are all staying open despite heavy budget pressures.
His comments come after the council’s cabinet unanimously agreed to implement the new model for libraries which will save the council £305,000 a year.
The cabinet had little difficulty on Friday (March 20) in agreeing the proposed changes which they had nothing but positive words for.
Even some heckling from Labour and Cooperative councillor Ed Murphy failed to dampen the cabinet’s enthusiasm.
Cllr Murphy asked the cabinet to consider library staff who are losing their jobs.
Congratulations on the consultation and outcome. It’s an improved service and I’m absolutely delighted.Councillor Marco Cereste
It was revealed the day before the cabinet meeting that 15 members of library staff are set to take voluntary redundancy, although it was noted at the meeting that this is still being consulted on.
The redundancies, if agreed, are anticipated to cost £120,000-£150,000 but would mean nobody would be forced to leave their job.
The new library model will see libraries stay open for 50 per cent longer with residents able to use the self-service technology, called Open+, when staff are not there.
However, the number of hours the libraries are staffed will reduce from 261 to 149.
Bretton, Orton, Central and Werrington libraries will all have their own assistant to oversee the Open+ technology during all un-staffed hours.
The library changes were agreed after a lengthy consultation which saw 1,847 responses, of which 60 per cent were said to be in favour of the new model.
Speaking at Friday’s meeting, Cllr Cereste praised the work of fellow cabinet member Cllr Lucia Serluca and Lisa Roberts, the council’s stategic client manager: culture and leisure.
Cllr Cereste said: “Congratulations on the consultation and outcome. It’s an improved service and I’m absolutely delighted.”
Following the heckling from Cllr Murphy, Cllr Cereste added: “I have sympathy for people losing their jobs but some councils are closing all their libraries.”
Cllr David Seaton said: “We are providing a better service and the opposition always resent that.”
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald added: “We have done all we can to protect services in challenging conditions.”
Cllr Nigel North, who feared libraries would have to shut, and Cllr Seaton both added to Cllr Cereste’s praise for the work which had been undertaken by Cllr Serluca and Ms Roberts.
Cllr Serluca said: “We will continue to work with partners and monitor the development of the libraries.
“I will personally oversee the implementation of the technology.”
The Open+ technology, which library users will have to sign up for, has so far been trialled in Central and Dogsthorpe libraries.
It will now be introduced in April to Eye, Thorney, Woodston and Bretton libraries.
It will then be introduced in May to Werrington, Orton and Stanground libraries.