Budget-saving changes to the library service at three of Pembrokeshire’s libraries were backed by senior councillors today, March 11.

A report for members said: “Like all other council services, the library service is required to make savings in 2024/25 as part of the authority’s statutory requirement to set a balanced budget.”

It added that “over the last 11 years of financial austerity, the Library Service has reduced its costs considerably,” listing a wide range of changes including  reducing opening hours of some libraries, working with Town and Community Councils and the local community to create Community Managed Library Partnerships, and negotiating financial contributions from Town and Community Councils to support the running of libraries.

The latest proposals included reductions to library opening hours equivalent to one full day per week at Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Tenby libraries, if the respective town councils “elect not to make an equivalent financial contribution towards maintaining these opening hours”.

A mix of reductions in early evening opening times, bank holidays, Sundays in school holidays were being considered at Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven, Tenby, and Fishguard libraries.

The report said that discussions with the appropriate town councils about financially supporting their libraries were held, with Tenby Town Council covering the costs of the potential reductions, and Fishguard Town Council continuing an existing financial support, as well as increasing a contribution to protect an evening slot and bank holidays.

“Unfortunately, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock Town Councils elected not to financially support their local libraries and therefore the savings need to be made through a reduction in opening hours at Milford Haven library, but in the case of Pembroke Dock, we intend to pilot a different solution [reducing staffing numbers], which will save the same amount of money, due to the opportunity afforded by the site having self-service technology,” the report said.

A public consultation exercise was undertaken between 21 December and 25 January, both on the council’s Have Your Say pages and with hard copies available in libraries.

“Engagement with town councils was not universally successful, but has protected library opening hours at both Tenby and Fishguard libraries,” the report said, adding: “The public consultation exercise was valuable and has led to changes in our proposals”.

Responses from the consultation led to small changes in the opening hours members heard.

The changes backed by Cabinet members consisted of four approved recommendations.

Haverfordwest’s Riverside Library will be closed on five Bank Holidays and the six Sundays during the school summer holidays.

Milford Haven library will see a reduction in opening hours, closing at 4pm on Mondays, 1pm on Wednesdays, 4pm on Thursdays, and 4pm on Fridays.

The library is currently closed on Tuesdays and closes at 1pm on Saturdays.

Pembroke Dock library will be closed every Wednesday 5-6.30pm, and the staffing levels will be reduced from three to two as part of a 12-month pilot project, making this permanent if it is successful.

If unsuccessful, it is proposed to undertake a further public consultation with a proposal for a reduction to opening hours and reinstate staffing levels to three if implemented.