CONCERNS have been raised over low levels of staff and resources within Blaenau Gwent libraries.

Spending on resources for libraries in Blaenau Gwent is the lowest in Wales, with the level of full-time staff also below minimum standards.

A report from the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD) of Welsh Government says this raises substantial concerns for the "resilience and performance" of the service going forward.

The county borough’s six libraries – Abertillery, Blaina, Brynmawr, Cwm, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar – have been run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, on behalf of the council, since 2014.

The amount of books borrowed has reduced in the last year, and remains among the lowest per person in Wales.

This is largely put down to the loss of the school library service, which has led to a reduction in children’s borrowing, but the continuing low investment in the materials budget is also a factor according to MALD.

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"Expenditure on resources remains the lowest in Wales, and the targets for acquisitions and Welsh language material have again not been met despite there being no further cuts to the book fund over this period," the report by MALD says.

"This exceptionally low level of investment remains a major concern although it is noted that the Trust and local authority are continuing discussions on an appropriate level of funding, to match the needs of the community."

Staffing levels are "critically low" within the borough's libraries, with 15 full-time equivalent staff.

The service would require 26 to meet the minimum standard.

However low levels are mitigated by the use of staff directly employed by other agencies and authority departments, the report says.

Staff are praised for achieving "a significant amount" amid constraints.

The report says there has been no significant change in the overall performance of the library service compared to last year, despite staffing and resource pressures.

"While provision for 2017/18 has been maintained, the position going forward is less clear and there is the potential for further library service savings to be applied in the medium term," it says.

"With staff and resourcing levels already at critically low levels, this raises substantial concerns for the resilience and performance of the service."

Councillors on Blaenau Gwent's environment, regeneration and economic development committee will discuss the report next Monday.

Option will be to let the library service continue as it is, or feed the findings into a leisure services review currently underway to set the future direction of the service.