AN UNPOPULAR decision to drastically reduce opening times at libraries across Denbighshire is to return to the Cabinet for reconsideration.

At a lengthy Special Meeting of the Council’s Communities Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, January 11, members voted in favour of asking the cabinet to postpone the decision to cut library services by 40 per cent until "further exploratory work" has been done to identify alternative funding sources available to the council, or other partner bodies, whether in the private or public sector.

Eight councillors voted in favour, two against, with one abstention.

The special meeting took place after Denbighshire's Conservative Group 'called in' Denbighshire County Council’s Cabinet decision to cut library services.

A vote was taken after a debate which started with the five signatories of the call-in, Cllrs Hugh Irving, Terry Mendies, Justine Evans, Brian Jones and James Elson, outlining their reasons for taking such action.

Cllr Irving, Conservative Group Leader, who represents Prestatyn Central ward, submitted the notice of call-in on December 29.

He said: “We really should be proud of this small, efficient, high performing service, instead of treating it as a soft target on which service cuts can be imposed.”

He added: “Public feedback I have received seems to indicate a demoralised staff thinking that after years of loyal service they are undervalued and not wanted. I wonder if this is a good way to treat staff.”

Cllr Justine Evans, who represents Rhyl East, said: "Sadly there are a great many children and young people out there who don’t have a warm, quiet space to study.

“Every child deserves to have the same opportunities, regardless of their background, and I believe Denbighshire County Council would be denying our young people this if they push ahead with these reduced opening hours.”

Cllr James Elson, Trefnant, described the 40 per cent cut to library services as “unfair and disproportionate” and said he fears that if they go ahead they will never be reversed.

“These proposals should be returned to Cabinet and put on the spike of bad ideas,” he said.  

Cllr Brian Jones, who represents Rhyl Ty Newydd ward, said: “We understand the pressures on the council as a whole, but this particular saving should not be on the table.”  

Cllr Terry Mendies, Alyn Valley, challenged the outlined cost savings. 

“The survey returned 4,600 responses with 95 per cent against the closures. So the wishes of 4,370 residents are being ignored by a Cabinet decision of nine people," he said.

“The closures are supposed to be about saving money, but it won't. The biggest cost to running the libraries is staff. Nobody is being made redundant, and the library staff will be reassigned to other departments. The proposed £330,000 'savings' is just creative accounting because they will still be on the DCC payroll.” 

Cllr Ann Davies, Rhuddlan, highlighted that the town has the highest percentage of residents over 80 years in Denbighshire, and that the library staff work to support the wellbeing of these residents, from complex form filling, paying bills, social gatherings and much more.

She said: "All this helps keep residents independent for as long as possible."

Cllr Peter Scott, St Asaph, said: "Back in 2016 when the City Council did a service level agreement with Denbighshire to pay £12,000 a year to help with the cost of running the library, at that time we thought everyone was doing it, when in fact we found out after that in was only ourselves and Rhuddlan who joined in with that.” 

Cllr Scott said to date the City Council have paid £84,000 into St Asaph Library, which they could have “done a great deal with in St Asaph.” 


Other Councillors from the Independent group also spoke out against the planned cuts.

Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, said: “I am extremely pleased that this decision has been paused and will be returning to the Cabinet for them to look at it again. The council needs to manage its budget in a strategic way, rather than attempting to pick off valuable services in this way.” 

Gareth Davies, Vale of Clwyd MS, who also opposed the cuts, said: “Whilst I appreciate that Denbighshire County Council needs to present a balanced budget, such huge decisions, which will impact so many in our communities, should not be taken without first exploring all avenues.”