THE future of Portsmouth’s libraries are safe for now say cultural bosses after the city council saved £244,000 a year.
The authority has been paying landscaping firm The Landscape Group to look after its parks and gardens in the city’s north, east and southern areas, including Southsea Common.
The majority of the saving is culture and leisure money, which means it will go towards not having to lay off staff and close libraries.Portsmouth Tory culture boss Linda Symes
But in an effort to minimise the level of cuts still set to be made over the coming years, the council has decided to terminate its contract with the firm as of December 31.
Instead, the council wants to take back control of the company’s maintenance responsibilities, and existing staff will be kept on to carry out the work on behalf of the authority.
Tory culture boss Linda Symes, who approved the plan, said taking away the need to spend money on outside help will save the council £244,000 every year ‘for the foreseeable future’.
The bulk of the saving – £230,000 – will go back into the culture, leisure and sport service – and Cllr Symes says it will ensure libraries can stay open and jobs will be protected.
She said: ‘The majority of the saving is culture and leisure money, which means it will go towards not having to lay off staff and close libraries.
‘It will make for a more resilient service, so whenever we want the common to be cleaned for a major event we have to go to our contractor and see if that fits in with the contract.
‘But in future people will be able to go out and tidy areas as and when they need doing.’
Cllr Symes added: ‘It will help us in not having to make lots of further cuts.
‘I don’t know what the government will plan to do in future years, and we can’t say that cuts won’t be made forever, because no-one really knows for sure.
‘But this will certainly help us not to have to make more difficult decisions.
‘As an administration, we’ve said to council officers that we want to find more ways of generating income and saving money, as opposed to making cuts.’
Cllr Symes said the new maintenance team will operate alongside the council’s Green and Clean service to keep areas tidy.