Plans approved to shut two libraries within months

Proposals to close two libraries near Wigan in a shake-up of services have been given the green light.
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Garswood Library, on School Lane, is one of four libraries set to shut at the end of January, while Billinge Library, which has been closed since March 2020, will not reopen.

The plans were approved by senior councillors at a meeting of St Helens Council’s cabinet.

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Garswood Library is set to close within monthsGarswood Library is set to close within months
Garswood Library is set to close within months
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It will see St Helens Library – based in the World of Glass Museum – remain open, along with libraries in Newton-le-Willows, Chester Lane, Haydock, Eccleston, Moss Bank and Thatto Heath.

But Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr libraries will no longer be council-maintained and will close at the end of January, though the council said “positive talks continue with some groups interested in a community-managed approach”.

Peter Street and Billinge libraries, which have been closed for some time due to expiry of the building lease and structural issues respectively, will not reopen.

Under the scheme, Haydock Library will have a £275,000 refurbishment from external funding to become St Helens’ first SEND specialist library.

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The shake-up is expected to save the council £338,000 a year and there will not be any redundancies.

Coun Anthony Burns, cabinet member for well-being, culture and heritage, said: "With some current library buildings in need of repair or not council-owned, we've taken the quality over quantity approach to deliver an innovative, modern, sustainable and accessible library service, providing support where it is needed with opportunity and access for all.

"The council has inevitably had to devote a larger proportion of its budget to statutory social care provision. The unfortunate, yet unavoidable, result is that less and less funding therefore remains for the hundreds of other services that the council provides.

"While it may not be easy, together we can make the most of this opportunity, meeting the changing demands of residents while of course making sure we provide support to the communities most in need.

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"The overall objective of this strategy isn't about closing libraries – which we wouldn't do if our government funding allocation wasn't cut to the bone – it's about bringing forward a vision for the future of our library service, one that's exciting, comprehensive, efficient – and has communities at the very heart."

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