Woodbridge closes book on library fees

Increased library opening hours have been welcomed – but in Woodbridge councillors are not prepared to pay to top them up even more.

PLANS by the county council to increase library opening hours have been welcomed – but in Woodbridge councillors are not prepared to pay to top them up even more.

The county council wants to encourage more people into the 43 libraries spread across Suffolk by making the opening hours longer and more flexible. Opening on Sundays, putting on extra lunchtime sessions, opening earlier and closing later are among the options.

Across Suffolk the number of hours when libraries are open is to rise by more than 400 hours a week. Woodbridge town council has been told that the library in New Street can open for 50 hours a week. But the town council would have to pay if it wanted the service open more hours.

''The opportunity to visit a library in a local town at more convenient hours and extended hours could be a very attractive proposition. The cost of an hour per week for a year in your library is £1,930 at 2003/04 prices and will rise with inflation. For library costs, inflation is currently running at 4%pa. We would be pleased for you to add however many extra hours you may wish to fund,'' said Guenever Pachent, assistant director (libraries and heritage).

Woodbridge councillor Kathryn Bryant said: ''I think it will be useful for people to have a library open on Sundays - it is difficult for them to get to a library at times. Libraries are not just for getting a book out, gradually they are going to change in nature and they are an online centre.''

However, concern was expressed by Neil Montgomery, deputy mayor, that the county council was asking the town council to pay for extra hours at a cost of nearly £2,000 an hour. He said it was questionable whether the town should be funding a service that the county should provide.

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The council agreed to welcome the extra opening hours but to advise the county that it could not afford to pay to have the library open above 50 hours weekly.

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