Last night, Monday 30th November 2015, there was a public meeting at Tysul Hall about the proposed closure of Llandysul Library. Present from Ceredigion County Councill were the Llandysul Councillor Peter Evans and Councillor Dafydd Edwards who is a member of the Cabinet and responsible for Financial Services, Information Technology and Customer Services, Housing and Planning.
Over 100 people attended the meeting, with members of Llandysul Community Council and the AM Elin Jones in the audience. We thought that we were there to discuss the closure of the library but, it turns out that we were discussing the closure of the whole building which includes the adult eduction room Dysgu Bro where computer and Welsh classes are held, the closure of the Local History Society’s display area the closure of the council payment office and of course the closure of the Library.
These are my notes from the evening, not minutes. So they may not be completely accurate but it will give you a taste of what was discussed.
The building is owned by the Church who have leased it to Ceredigion County Council for 125 years.
The County Council:
- pay a ‘peppercorn’ rent, that is zero – on the condition that they maintain the building.
- The Church has its own hall at the back of the building.
- The lease does not allow any commercial activity in the building only community activity.
- There is a small extension to the building which is rented by the Police. This is also under scrutiny by the Police Commissioner but not a part of this discussion.
We were not given exact figures but the cost of running the whole building was said to be about £40,000 – consisting of £15,000 wages and miscellaneous costs, and £25,000 business rates – the business rates being 167% of the actual costs of running the service which is a ludicrous situation.
Questions and comments from the floor:
Q: Why not use the new school library?
A: If it were possible it would only be in the evening. We have to consider the security of the children.
Q: In Cardigan the owner of the building where the library is situated has said he would not charge rent for 5 years. Will that help Llandysul?
A: It’s made the situation worse. The Library in Cardigan needs to go to a smaller space in a council owned property so that there is less business rates to pay and not rent.
Q: Have the council considered cutting hours in all the libraries?
Q: Why is Llandysul consistently being singled out for cuts?
No clear answers here. Every town is having cuts. The council have to cut 20% from all services and this was being applied evenly over all services. So why not cut every library evenly by 20% rather than singling some out to be removed? This would mean Llandysul would have to find £8,000 savings. If the business rates can’t be changed, the only costs that can be cut are the £15,000 wages and miscellaneous i.e. 53% of these costs.
Q: Has the Council negotiated to reduce the Business Rates for the library?
No. Why not? There would be no rates payable if it was run as a charity by volunteers on the same basis at it is being run now, so why does the Council have to pay more than annual running costs (£15,000) in rates (£24,000)? Elin Jones, AM was there and she was asked to raise the matter with Welsh Government to change the law so that libraries do not have to pay business rates.
Q: Could the university libraries and private libraries in Aberystwyth and Lampeter be used by the public instead?
A: The university in Lampeter was approached but the talks came to nothing. We were then able to get a grant to do the necessary work on the existing library in Lampeter.
Comment from the floor: So now that library has to stay open for at least 5 years or else you would have to pay back the grant.
The meeting continued like this for about 1.5 hours.
The bottom line was that the Council would help the community to form a group to run the building. The group would have to become a charity then they would not have to pay business rates. The same group, or maybe another group could become volunteer librarians and run the library using the Ceredigion Library Services, as has happened in New Quay.
Comment from the floor: The Church would need to be consulted and the lease should remain with the Council, meaning they would still need to maintain the building.
What can we do?
Fill in the Council Consultation available online and copies in the library. The closing date for feedback is 5pm on the 4th of January 2016.
Please note, the Consultation really does give two options both of which say Close Llandysul Library. We need to show them that there is a third option.
Sign the Petition – in the shops in Llandysul and online.
Write to your Representatives – Community Council; Ceredigion County Councillors, Carmarthenshire County Councillors and your AM and your MP. Write to your representative even if you live outside of Llandysul or indeed Ceredigion.
Finally, we, as a community need to prepare ourselves for the closure of the library building and all its services. However there is an opportunity for volunteers to step in and take on the challenge.
Would you help form a charity and run a community building?
Would you help in the library? Be a librarian?
Are you good with finances? Could you be the Treasurer?
Can you fundraise?
IF so, contact Councillor Peter Evans: