Libraries earmarked for closure under plans for 'modern forward-thinking service'

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Two libraries near Wigan are earmarked for closure as part of controversial plans to “transform” services.

Garswood Library could be axed, while Billinge Library – which has been shut since March 2020 as a result of structural issues – may not reopen.

St Helens Council’s cabinet approved its draft library strategy and delivery plan for 2023-2028 at a meeting yesterday.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
Wigan takeaway boss found dead at friend's house had money worries
Garswood Library could closeGarswood Library could close
Garswood Library could close

In July, the cabinet considered the adoption of a strategy and approved the implementation of a delivery plan as part of a cost-cutting move.

However, during the implementation period “issues came to light that merited further consideration” and the council agreed to not take further steps to implement the decision.

Revised proposals were put forward to the cabinet – the most senior group of St Helens councillors – setting out proposals to reduce the number of libraries from 13 to seven.

Residents and community groups are now being encouraged to take part in a public consultation over the proposed changes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In her report to cabinet, director of communities Tanya Wilcock said in light of the “worsening financial circumstances”, the drive to improve services provided by libraries and ensure they were targeted to those most in need is “more fundamental than ever”.

She added: “This report outlines how the council intends to transform the library service into a modern forward-thinking service that contributes to the delivery of the borough’s priorities.

“The delivery plan sets out how the service will target areas of greatest need, reach into communities both physically and digitally and reduce the dependency on physical buildings.

“The new strategy includes difficult proposals to reduce the number of physical libraries in the borough from 13 to seven.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“This will mean the closure of libraries in Peter Street, Parr, Rainhill, Billinge, Garswood and Rainford.”

The cabinet supported the recommendation to approve the revised draft strategy and delivery plan and to commission a 12-week period of public consultation.

Members were recommended to note the proposals to retain statutory library provision at St Helens (in the World of Glass), Chester Lane, Thatto Heath, Newton-le-Willows, Moss Bank, Haydock and Eccleston – as well as the proposals to cease library provision at Parr, Rainhill, Garswood, Rainford, Peter Street (which closed at the end of March due to the building space being leased to another organisation) and Billinge.

Furthermore, members were asked to note the proposal to “move away from a building focussed service to an enabling service” that addresses borough priorities through partnership working.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The aim of the plan is that by 2028 there will be an increase in the number of people using libraries, an increase in the loan of physical and digital books, an increased outreach programme, and further development of partnerships to provide library services and activities “where they are most needed and attracting a wider customer base”.

The council added that "a time when the council’s funding from central government is significantly reduced, down from £127m in 2010 to just £11m this year, this geographically spread model will target resources where it is required most".

Haydock is set to become the borough’s first SEND specialist library next year and St Helens Library will move back into The Gamble Building once internal renovations are completed.