Library to open on Sundays

A popular city library is to open on Sundays - but the council has refused to say when the extended hours will be introduced.

City councillor David Smith, chairman of the culture committee, has revealed his commitment to opening Jubilee Library, Jubilee Street, Brighton, on the day of rest.

But he said that work was still underway on funding and could not give a time frame.

The move emerged in response to a question from Labour councillor Melanie Davis at a meeting.

Her party had pledged to extend the opening hours after the May election but lost control of the council to the Conservatives.

In minutes of the last culture committee, it was reported that the Tories would also honour the pledge - a comment confirmed at a meeting of the full council on Thursday.

The Jubilee Library, a 5,000 square metre building paid for by PFI, was opened in 2005 at a cost of £14.5 million.

Coun Smith said: "The administration is committed to improving library services and we are seeking ways to fund the opening of Jubilee Library on Sundays within the budget setting process.

"A number of options are being investigated and further information sought on the most cost effective way of extending opening hours in this award-winning library.

"Jubilee Library has continued to improve its performance since it opened in 2005, with just under 900,000 visits and 695,000 issues every year, making it the second busiest unitary authority library in the country.

"People from all sections of society use, and have benefited from the services delivered through Jubilee Library and any extensions to opening hours would make these benefits more accessible to everyone in the city."

Coun Davis welcomed the move but added: "They made a commitment but it is a shame that we have to force it out of them by asking a question at council.

"I just hope they do not cut something else to fund it."

In September 2005, the council extended opening hours on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2pm to 5pm but a call for Sunday opening to be introduced have not led to any action so far.

Green councillor Bill Randall said the extra charges involved with PFI contracts made extending opening hours more difficult than with other libraries.

He said:"If they want to open the library longer they are not just paying the staff but also paying the PFI company for using the facilities.

"What is the point of having a wonderful library if it is shut?

"Life has changed and people go shopping and to town on Sundays."

Nancy Platts, Labour candidate for the parliamentary seat of Brighton Pavilion, is conducting a survey showing how library visitors in Brighton are missing out because the Jubilee Library is open only 48 hours a week.

She said: "The Tories should get on with Sunday opening of Jubilee Library immediately as the first step in a review of demand across the whole of the city.

"My survey has already found that many cities have central libraries that are open up to 25 per cent longer. Birmingham's library is open for a total of 63 hours a week, with Manchester, Leeds and Bradford not far behind."

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