Firm that runs libraries in city warns against cuts of £600,000

The chief executive of York’s main library provider has written to councillors asking them to vote against proposed library reductions.
York Explore Library and ArchiveYork Explore Library and Archive
York Explore Library and Archive

Jenny Layfield, chief executive of York Explore, told councillors at the City of York Council “to exclude reductions in library services” from budget proposals due to be voted on when the full council meets on February 22.

York Explore has been asked by the council to save £300,000 in 2024/25 and a further £300,000 in 2025/26, despite having an agreed contract.

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“The ongoing uncertainty over our contractual income is likely to lead to material uncertainty in our status,” Ms Layfield said.

York Explore agreed to a 15-year contract in April 2019 with the council to provide agreed funds for its services, but the council’s annual budget includes measures to cut funding.

Ms Layfield previously said the council could not do this as it required mutual agreement.

In the letter to York councillors, Ms Layfield added: “As directors, we have a legal duty to act in the best interests of Explore, and we would not be able to agree to contract changes that would lead to Explore becoming financially unviable.”

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Coun Jo Coles, the executive member who oversaw the cuts, said: “No one wants to make any cuts to any budgets.

“Our libraries are brilliant, but after 14 years of cuts to local council budgets, it is only fair that we look at all the contracts and services the council funds.

“So far, York Explore has not seen any reductions in their budgets.

“So, it is deeply disappointing that they seem to be more focused on stepping into political territory than on looking at how to make this work.

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“The changes we’re asking them to identify would mean about a 10 per cent cut in the council’s contribution this year and next.

“That doesn’t mean services have to be cut by that amount, Explore’s fundraising, cafe income and grants could all help to mitigate the change and we’re continuing to make capital investment too.

“City of York Council will continue to work collaboratively and fairly in the interests of York residents and urge York Explore to understand we need them to be a part of that process.”

Cuts have been proposed to several services in York as the council attempts to save £40m over the next four years and balance its books.

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Coun Katie Lomas, executive member for finance, has warned that these cuts are being made so the council does not have to issue a section 114 notice, which would effectively declare it bankrupt.

“Not taking the council’s financial situation seriously puts us a step closer to a 114 notice which would mean all Council services would be cut to the statutory minimum level,” Coun Lomas said.

“We will not play games with the council’s budget, our services are too valuable to the people of York.”

The cost of running York Explore in 2022/23 was approximately £3.1m.

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York Explore is two-thirds funded by the City of York Council and the remainder through trading, grants and other fundraising.

It runs 15 libraries in York, including the central library which holds the city archive and employs more than 100 people.

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