FEARS have been raised over future closures of Dudley’s libraries.

Following a budget statement this week, Dudley Council has proposed nearly £1.5 million in savings on library services over the next few years.

Despite concerns, Councillor Steve Clark stated that although he could not be certain how the savings would be made he could guarantee that “we’ll have a first-class library service at the end of the whole process”.

But following the recent announcement of closures to the Crystal Leisure Centre cafe and the reported failings of other leisure centres in the borough, concerns have been raised that library services could be next.

Shadow cabinet member for housing and communities Councillor Adam Aston raised his concerns at a recent council meeting dealing with the annual budget and medium-term financial strategy.

Cllr Aston said: “I am very concerned that savings of £380,000 in 2024/25 and a further £1.08 million in 2025/26 have been proposed from Dudley’s library service contract.

“Our libraries are incredibly important and should be cherished as community assets, they are gateways to knowledge and fundamental to a civilised society, such huge cuts equate to almost a third of the entire libraries budget, I can’t see how this can be achieved without borough-wide library closures, which would be devastating for library users and staff."

Dudley’s libraries were outsourced to the social enterprise Greenwich Leisure Limited in 2017, the contract ends in 2024. 800 libraries have been closed across the country since 2010.

Theresa Kelly, branch secretary at Dudley General Branch of UNISON, said: “Dudley’s library contract needs reviewing without further delay. The service was outsourced on the basis that the council stood to save £600k in costs.

“Prior to this, our libraries were identified as an ‘exemplar service’ but the one with the lowest potential savings, so it is questionable as to why this service got chosen to be outsourced over services that offered higher savings.

“With the additional £1 million paid to GLL in 2021, the library contract has cost the council £4,230,000 since 2017, but it has not achieved the projected savings and the number of library users have declined significantly due to GLL’s mismanagement.”

Unison also estimates that library staff pay is 12 per cent below what it would have been if the service had stayed in-house with the council. In response, Dudley Council says they will be reviewing the service when the contract ends.

Councillor Laura Taylor-Childs, cabinet member for housing and communities, said: “The value of the contract was £3.3 million each year but this figure was always subject to change due to factors such as inflation.

“For this financial year, the council will pay GLL £ 3.6 million. This reflects the significant increase in inflation. As we approach the end of the contract with GLL, we are conducting a full review of the library service.”