Since 2010 Bradford Council has seen its Government grant reduced by one third and during the next four years the grant will be completely removed. As a result Bradford are engaging on a major asset transfer scheme to remove costs and either close services down or pass their management on to Parish Councils or community groups across the district. Among the services being ‘offered’ to Burley Parish Council are maintenance of open space, the Queens Hall and the library. In a bid to make savings of £61.5m over the next two years, Bradford Council is to withdraw several services and from running 14 libraries across the district, either putting them in the hands of community management groups or, if no bids to run them are forthcoming, close them down. Burley is one of these libraries.
Within Burley people feel really strongly about their local library. Libraries are not just about books, they’ve become social and community hubs, where computers and the internet can be accessed, and where Burley stores its historical archives. The changes to library services take place from April 2017. Initially Bradford will withdraw £18,000 funding for staff and while a further £18,000 running costs will be paid for 2017-18 this will be reviewed on an annual basis. The Parish Council are already advanced with our plans to keep a library service running for the next 12 months with over 50 volunteers willing to spend a few hours a week each to support the service.
However the library building has seen years of under investment, and a condition survey has identified some £276,000 will be required over the nest five years to repair and restore the 1974 building.
The library is not the only asset that Bradford are keen to transfer or close. The Parish Council have agreed to manage Grange Park, Victoria Park and the Recreation Ground, and with that will come the maintenance and upkeep of the park areas. Our parks are more than the green lungs within the village, and it is essential that they are both maintained and protected. Estimated costs for regular grass cutting, hedge and tree upkeep amount to some £23,000 per year.
The Queen’s Hall is in the very heart of the village and would also be closed by Bradford had the Parish Council not stepped in to run it. The costs to run the Queen's Hall are estimated at around £58,000 a year. A part time caretaker, repairs, rates and heating account for most of this expenditure. However the Queen's Hall also benefits from rental income from room bookings which is expected to bring in some £25,000 per year. After income from rent and room bookings is taken into account there is an estimated net cost of £33,000 per year. With ownership transferring to the Parish Council, the Parish Council will be seeking new ways to maximise the utilisation of this building through new pricing and an online booking system to try and close the cost / income gap. However the Queen's Hall has also seen under investment in building maintenance so the Parish Council have carried out an independent condition survey which has identified £78,000 of building repairs which are required over the next 5 years.
In the year 2016/7 the average band D Burley Parish Council precept is £15.88. By comparison the national average is £57.40. By moving closer to the national average, Burley Parish Council can manage the assets being transferred from by Bradford, however we will be well under the threshold figure of £75.46 which the Government has determined represents a higher spending council.
The precept is set to cover running costs and does not address the significant repair costs felt most acutely by the library. During 2017 Burley Parish Council will review the way the library is run and will seek ways to address the inherent repair costs which have been assumed as part of the asset transfer.
If you have views on the cost implications associated with this asset transfer please feel free to contact us.