Exclusive: We won’t shut Aberdeen libraries – council co-leader rules out ‘draconian step’ in budget cuts

Plans to close all of Aberdeen's libraries except the Central Library have been scrapped by politicians
Plans to close all of Aberdeen's libraries except the Central Library have been scrapped by politicians

Controversial proposals to scrap all but one of Aberdeen’s libraries have been thrown out by the council’s ruling administration.

A raft of cost-saving options were unveiled last week to plug a £41.2 million funding black hole, among them a proposal to close all libraries, with the exception of Central Library, to save £863,000.

However, city council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, who heads up the ruling Labour, Conservative and Independent administration, has since told the Evening Express they will not take the “draconian step” of closing libraries, when it meets to put forward its budget tomorrow.

Aberdeen’s Central Library

Mr Lumsden said: “There is no doubt that bringing about a budget without cutting back on services has been a challenge this year.

“The administration, however, will not take the draconian step of closing libraries. We value libraries within our communities and we will continue to protect places of learning from SNP Government budget cuts.”

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said it has also abandoned the controversial library proposal within its own alternative budget.

He said: “The Liberal Democrats believe Aberdeen’s libraries provide a very valuable service for people across our city.

“We will definitely not be proposing that libraries should be closed at the council budget-setting meeting on Tuesday.”

And SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said: “We are incredibly mindful of the importance of libraries to our communities due to the key role they play.

“And this will be at the forefront of our thoughts as we work towards proposing our alternative budget.”

CILIP, the UK’s library and information association, had written to the council asking it to abandon the proposal.

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Sean McNamara, head of CILIP in Scotland, said: “We understand that Aberdeen City Council is facing extreme budgetary challenges and must make difficult decisions.

“However, I strongly believe that these proposals don’t take into account the huge short and long-term impact it would have on communities as well as calling into question the council’s ability to meet the legal requirement of providing adequate library services.

“Libraries in Scotland are more visited than professional football and the cinema combined and offer a huge return on investment.

“If people are unable to access a library in their local area it could leave them isolated and unable to access vital services.

“Libraries improve literacy levels, tackle social isolation, support mental health and wellbeing and play a key role in supporting the digital strategies in Scotland and across the UK.

“Library closures have the potential to severely damage the ability to meet community needs and may also disadvantage vulnerable groups and it is essential the impact on communities has been fully assessed before making any decision.”

Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: “We will take no lectures from the Tories, whose colleagues at Westminster are threatening Scotland with the disaster of Brexit and who have also been slashing Scotland’s budget.

“Aberdeen City Council will receive £375.7 million to fund local services in 2019-20.

“Using their council tax powers they could also generate an additional £5.8m, meaning a total of £381.6m. This represents an increase of £21.2m or 5.9%.”