NLGN today calls for radical reform of council services including transport, waste and libraries, as new analysis reveals that the cost of issuing a book can be so high that in some cases it might be cheaper to buy each borrower a new copy.
As citizen demands change and cuts start to bite, NLGN’s research shows that, while the average cost of borrowing a book is around £3.50, in some areas it can be as high as £8.00, largely due to a 13m decline in the number of issues since 2005/6. While this figure does not capture the full value of all the services a library provides – such as free magazines, community space and internet use – it does highlight important changes in the ways people use these community facilities.
NLGN argues that the best way to democratise book access in future will be to make a radical shift to e-readers, online ordering and book vending machines in public places. This would make it much easier for the public to access books while freeing up library space for use by families and communities. Libraries would still hold the most popular titles and children’s books and act as a crucial community hub.
The new report, Transforming Universal Services, supported by May Gurney, also sets out the case for major reform of transport and environmental services beyond the next election. Proposals include:
- The increased use of congestion charging and adoption of road user pricing by central government
- City-wide cap and trade schemes for business waste using new variable charging technology, with any profit being used to reduce the business rate
- New green bonds allowing local people and businesses to invest in energy from waste plants and to receive a dividend from their operation
NLGN researcher Daria Kuznetsova said:
“We need a radical discussion about how public services need to change over the coming decade. Our proposals envisage a world in which citizens and businesses get far more choice about how they use and access key services. We envisage libraries that are accessible online and through vending machines in train stations. We call for businesses to refurbish old furniture and computers to avoid landfill taxes. And where citizens and businesses can help local authorities make savings, they should get a share back through council tax or business rate discounts.”