LIBRARY: Community hubs are working
Blaina Library Community Hub, Image: LDRS
Using libraries as centres to access council services is working according to councillors.
A report looking how the library community hub model had been operating over the summer, was discussed at a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Corporate Overview scrutiny committee on Friday, September 10.
The hubs are based at Abertillery, Brynmawr, Tredegar, and Ebbw Vale libraries.
Blaina and Cwm libraries as well as Llanhilleth Institute are also community hubs but operated a more restricted schedule over the summer.
The report says that the main type of help being asked for is on Council Tax, benefit applications, blue badge applications, to report issues and to pay for services.
Blaenau Gwent’s commercial and customer chief officer, Bernadette Elias told councillors that a number of case studies that explain the work done by staff to help residents, had been included with the report.
Cllr John Hill said: “They seem to be working very well, you’re bringing services closer to the people it was a move that was bound to be successful.”
Cllr Hill did bring up an issue of privacy that people when talking to a council official could be overheard and said that he “understood” there would be private rooms available to allow those confidential conversations to take place.
Cllr Hill also said that libraries should have signs outside the building saying the “community hub” is in here.
Ms Elias said they were “working towards ensuring” that they can access private rooms and added that signs is “something they could look at.”
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “The hubs are proving successful; we now need to get our strategy right as these hubs as the front door of the local authority in our towns.
“We must cater for the whole of Blaenau Gwent, and we must ensure that everyone has access to our services,”
There had been some teething troubles with the hubs, as Cllr Peter Baldwin explained that people had mixed up of opening times at the Blaina and Cwm library/community hubs.
He believed that better communication was needed to tell people when they are open.
Cllr Baldwin said: “Not everyone is on Facebook especially the older generation, the numbers are not going to go up unless people know what services are there.”
Ms Elias explained that opening hours were still being looked at and had not been “set in stone.”
Ms Elias said: “I absolutely agree with you we need to ensure that we’re spreading the message to as many residents as possible that we have this new service.
“We are doing more traditional forms of communication such as flyers in GP surgeries and shop.
“We have increased that following feedback from members and seeing the profile of residents we are working with.
She added that they would continue to publicise the hubs on the council’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The report will now go to a meeting of the Executive Team to be discussed on September 22.
Words: Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter
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