Wales

Library closure plans shelved by Neath Port Talbot Council

Skewen Library Image copyright Google
Image caption Skewen Library was previously threatened with closure in 2016

Four libraries threatened with closure are to remain open after a public outcry backed by politicians.

Neath Port Talbot Council had planned to close the libraries in Baglan, Cwmafan, Glynneath and Skewen or transfer them to community groups.

Council leader Rob Jones said a public consultation showed people "passionately" supported the service.

However, he warned the £1.7m spent on libraries every year could come under threat again depending on a review.

The trade union Unison led a campaign against the proposed closures, with a protest taking place in January outside the civic offices in Port Talbot.

Officials said there was "much more" to libraries than book lending, saying they were at the heart of the community.

Image copyright Unison
Image caption Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Sayed (front row, second left) joined a protest against the closure plans

Local ward councillors, assembly members and Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock also spoke in defence of them as a "vital lifeline" for people of all ages.

Baglan and Skewen libraries had previously been saved from closure in 2016.

Confirming the stay of execution, councillor Jones said: "My concern is that libraries are becoming the new community centres that we asset transferred out to the community a few years ago.

"Libraries have become more like community hubs than just a book lending service," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"I don't want to duplicate a process we have already gone through, that's why we need to have a full review of the libraries service."

Budget proposals which include a 4% council tax rise will be considered by Neath Port Talbot's ruling Labour cabinet next Wednesday, and by the full council on Thursday.

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