Library consultation draws to a close

Wigan Council has said it will not close any libraries
Wigan Council has said it will not close any libraries

A consultation on the reform plan for Wigan borough’s libraries draws to a close this week with residents urged to voice their views.

Council bosses have earmarked making £1.4m worth of savings from its library budget but have vowed not to close any of its current sites

Instead, the town hall is proposing back-office changes - such as the merging of Life Centre and library staff - as a potential cost-saving measure.

The transfer of sites to community groups will also be a consideration, officers have previously said.

The consultation - which has been running for 12 weeks since November - closes on February 5.

Assistant director for customer services Lesley O’Halloran has previously told the Observer closing the libraries “would fly in the face of the Wigan Deal”.

She added: “When we looked at the number of people visiting our libraries it’s clear they do an awful lot (for the community). But we need to do things differently, we can’t keep things the same and we think we have come up with innovative ways to keep the provision.”

In 2015/16, 868,911 people visited the borough’s libraries and 566,519 items were issued. In the same period, 7,012 visits were made by the Home Delivery Service, issuing 44,374 items, according to council statistics.

Library services are the latest department at the town hall to be undergoing reform with the local authority facing making cutbacks of £45m by 2019, bringing its total of savings to £160m.

Despite this, members of the ruling Labour Party have welcomed the intention not to close any library facilities given that neighbouring authorities have already scheduled closures.

For example, Lancashire County Council, which is facing cutbacks of £262m by 2020, has placed 40 libraries at risk of closure, including facilities in Parbold and Up Holland.

Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities and housing, said: “We’re in a different world now where people need to get more out of the buildings and have access to different services.”

Visit www.wigan.gov.uk to take part in the consultation or ask for a form at a library.