Battle on to keep our libraries

Coun Debbie Fairhurst outside Shevington Library with residents who are supporting her to keep the library open
Coun Debbie Fairhurst outside Shevington Library with residents who are supporting her to keep the library open

THE first volley has been delivered in the battle to save a Wigan village library.

The borough’s Leisure and Culture Trust must save a quarter of the service budget – £1m – after cutbacks and have launched a top to bottom review.

It is believed they are considering axing up to half a dozen of their 18 libraries.

But a councillor from Shevington has produced an alternative cost-cutting budget to save three-quarters of the necessary cash to keep all the libraries without a single job cut.

This includes axing the quarterly glossy Borough Life council publication, ending free meals for councillors, whose official meetings at the town hall coincide with meal times, and freezing the level of Brighter Borough allowances for councillors to spend in their wards. This, she has calculated, will save more than £750,000 a year. And the opposition Independent Conservative councillor Debbie Fairhurst will be putting this to the next full council meeting, on January 5.

But Metro Labour leader Lord Smith, whose party has produced an emergency budget to save £55m over the next three years because of the cuts, urged her to not to pre-judge the review’s conclusions.

He said: “There is a review of library services taking place and people will have the opportunity to comment.

“However it is wrong and misleading for any councillor to predict the outcome of this review.

“But with the savage cuts forced on Wigan Council by the government, Coun Fairhurst might wish to offer some constructive comments about how to slash £55m from our services the Conservative-led coalition are demanding.”

Coun Fairhurst said that she was determined to demonstrate the worth of the library to the community before any decisions were taken.

She said: “The facility is a great asset to the community and the use is far and wide. Not only is it a library but it is used as a one-stop shop for the area police as well.

“My proposals to cut councillor perks won’t mean one job being cut and yet will save three quarters of the million they need to save.”

A spokesman for Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust said: “The consultation over the future of the libraries will play an important part in any future decisions on the service.”

Responses can be left on Wigan Council’s website until March 31 2011.