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Library scheme “in danger of hitting the rocks”

The leader of South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors has questioned the level of public support for ‘Open Access’ at the district’s libraries, after the Conservative council’s Annual Performance Report revealed that just 13% of eligible users have signed up for the scheme.

‘Open Access’ swipe-cards were introduced into nine South Gloucestershire libraries last year as a cost-saving measure, with users needing to register to gain access during unstaffed hours.  In parallel, staffed hours were cut by 30% across the district. Labour councillors believe that ‘Open Access’ technology has a role in enhancing staffed services but should not be used as a cover to cut the much-valued library staff.

At the Council’s Cabinet meeting this week, Councillor Pat Rooney questioned the ruling Conservatives on the 13% take-up of the scheme.

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Councillor Rooney says:

“The council’s official performance report tells us that, as of April, 3,655 library users had signed up for ‘Open Access’, which equates to around 13% of all eligible library users. When I raised my concerns at Cabinet about this low figure they were dismissed by the Tories, who continue to boast that this is a great system and an exemplar for future value for money improvements.

It is surely a false economy if cost-cutting changes result in very few residents actually using the new service. The ‘Open Access’ swipe-card system has been in place for several months now, so the low registration levels cannot be casually dismissed as teething problems. Unless the Tories improve the take-up of the scheme, their flagship policy is in danger of hitting the rocks.”

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