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Revamp of Kent library opening hours agreed by Cllr Mike Hill

By Alan Smith

Kent County Council is to adopt its new three-year strategy for Kent Libraries, Registration and Archives - with some modifications.

Cabinet member Cllr Mike Hill heard that the majority of the 5,547 responses to a 10-week public consultation on the proposals had been in favour of the plans, which broadly see staff time and opening hours allocated to those libraries that are most used.

Though actually the margin was small, with 44% agreeing or strongly agreeing, and 37% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Others were uncertain.

A number of libraries will have their opening hours cut
A number of libraries will have their opening hours cut

However, Cllr Hill heard that the data supporting the proposal had been updated in the meantime, which resulted in longer opening hours for 12 of the libraries than had originally been suggested.

Among those to get an upgrade are Staplehurst and Headcorn, which will both now be open for 28 hours a week, instead of the 23 they had been marked down for.

Tonbridge also gets a boost and will open 42 hours a week instead of 37 hours. No libraries were down-graded in the review.

Taken over all, there will still be a reduction in total library opening hours, which KCC hopes will save it £960,00 over the next two years, but at least all the county's 99 libraries will remain open.

Customers will not notice any changes until the autumn. In the meantime, before the opening times of individual libraries are adjusted there will be local consultations to decide the exact opening times that customers would like to see.

Cllr Mike Hill: Difficult decision
Cllr Mike Hill: Difficult decision

Cllr Hill said: “This strategy offers a sustainable future for the Libraries, Registration and Archive service in the context of the challenging financial situation for Kent County Council.

“Unlike many other local authorities, Kent is committed to keeping all its libraries open if possible and, while I have heard the understandable concerns raised about the reduction of library opening hours, difficult decisions have to be taken."

The full details of the strategy can be viewed here.

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