COUNCILLORS have called for more money to be spent on library stock in Blaenau Gwent.

The county borough's libraries are run by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, with money transferred from the council into a book fund to run services.

Blaenau Gwent council allocated £82,000 to the book fund for 2017/18 but only £27,000 was spent by the Trust.

Spending on resources for libraries in Blaenau Gwent is the lowest in Wales, according to the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD) of Welsh Government.

Money spent by the trust for this year will now increase to around £43,000 following discussions with the council.

The meeting heard the council is working with the Trust to try to increase further the amount it spends on libraries.

At a scrutiny meeting on Monday, Cllr Phil Edwards asked how many years libraries had been 'robbed' of funding which had been allocated for resources.

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Cllr Hedley McCarthy said if money is allocated for a book fund, it should be spent on that.

"I am not in favour of reducing the funding but I am in favour of them spending the money we give them on books," he said.

The amount of books borrowed in libraries in Blaenau Gwent has reduced in the last year, and the rate 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 the Welsh Government's Museums, Archives and Libraries Division.

Cllr John Morgan also called for more money to be spent on resources.

"If funding is not going into the books then is it any surprise that lending is falling?" he said.

"If they had £80,000 surely they should have spent that money on materials."

Staffing levels within the borough's libraries are also "critically low", MALD says.

Cllr Morgan praised the work of staff in libraries, which he said "covered up" the low levels.

Cllr Jonathan Millard said libraries were also vital in providing computers including for those claiming Universal Credit and searching for jobs.

"The staff are the biggest asset we have got in the library service," he added.

"They continue to deliver above and beyond."

A spokeswoman for Aneurin Leisure Trust said: "During 2018/19 Aneurin Leisure has actively sought to improve its library offer to match the needs of the local community. 

"The Trust has increased the allocation to the book fund by 59 per cent, which includes investment in Borrowbox, to provide a range of free e books and e audio books. 

"The Trust will continue to work in partnership with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council to agree an appropriate level of funding."