WIGAN’S MP has taken the battle over the future of our libraries to Westminister.
She has hosted a debate on the future of the service in the face of the Coalition’s cuts to local authorities like the Metro.
Cuts of more than a quarter (£1.1m) to Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust’s budget means that up to six of the borough’s 18 library services may now be under threat.
In recent years, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust has made a concerted effort to invest in libraries and last year, libraries across Wigan received more than 1.3 million visitors.
Visits over the last six years have bucked national trends, increasing by 17 per cent and user satisfaction is at an impressive 91 per cent.
Lisa Nandy said today that the cuts to come to this service would therefore be a ‘‘devastating blow’’ to the people who use them weekly and in some cases, daily.
She is particularly concerned about the impact on community-run libraries in the area, which provide excellent facilities.
Ms Nandy said: ‘‘Cuts of this scale will force the hand of local council leaders and I will be working alongside them to try and protect Wigan’s best services, including libraries.
‘‘I am looking forward to questioning the Minister on his decision to slash funding from our local libraries and devolve responsibility to the council to cut services.
‘‘I will also be questioning the assumption that volunteer-run libraries are a cheap or free option.
‘‘Libraries such as Hope Community Library are truly excellent but they need support from the local authority in terms of books, computers and training for staff.
‘‘It is not good enough to cut funding and assume volunteers will pick up the tab.
‘‘The Government’s ‘Big Society’ needs support from the state as well.”
A decision on the future of all of Wigan’s libraries won’t be taken before a review considers the findings of a borough-wide consultation.
Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust organised the first consultation meetings this week and asked people to fill in questionaires.
That is due to run until the end of March and ruling Cabinet councillors will consider its findings in July as part of the decision-making process.