Resident's pledge to fight cuts to his local library

A retired firefighter is preparing to launch legal action to stop council chiefs from dramatically reducing the size of a popular borough library.

Monday, 2nd October 2017, 1:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 3:35 pm
Victor Evans outside Marsh Green Library
Victor Evans outside Marsh Green Library

Victor Evans fears for the future of Marsh Green Library after learning about Wigan Council’s plans for the Harrow Road centre.

The cash-strapped authority’s cost-cutting scheme includes moving out some library facilities and drastically reducing its current size and running a school book supply service from the site.

And the 64-year-old, who is being treated for leukaemia, says he has a sound legal challenge because he believes the local authority did not consult properly on the plan.

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Mr Evans, of Courier Place, Marsh Green, said: “This building does not belong to Wigan Council, it belongs to the people of Marsh Green, who paid for it through their council tax.

“The council doesn’t have the right to just annexe the bits its wants.

“They are putting profit before people but I don’t care about the council making a profit.

“They have said to me that this is because of austerity but austerity won’t last forever and if we lose our libraries, we won’t ever get them back.”

Mr Evans has contacted unions, including Unison, for support in launching his legal bid but says if they will not assist him he is happy to proceed alone.

He has also contacted a number of local councillors but has only received a reply from one acknowledging his concerns.

“This is a point of principle as well because the council have not consulted properly,” said Mr Evans.

“I have spoken to a number of people and they did not know anything about it which shows the council think they can just do what they like.”

Mr Evans believes the work to transform the library will go ahead within a week leaving him with no option but to apply for retrospective action.

He added: “I have read about a similar situation where a council actually went ahead with something like this and he started legal action and they were forced to completely go back on what they had done.

“If needs be, I will go for something like that.”

Council chiefs insist they have conducted a 12-week consultation. But they revealed only 48 library users responded.

The change comes as part of wider developments within Wigan borough libraries which, the council says, are transforming and enhancing customer service delivery, shaped by feedback from local residents.

But the town hall also says that it has to make the most of dwindling resources.

Lesley O’Halloran, council assistant director of customer services, said: “To prevent any closures we’ve created a more rounded and easier to use offer in a number of our libraries, including Marsh Green, combining services in one space. Accommodating a schools service will help us to reduce running costs of service, meaning we can keep the building open with extended opening hours for our customers.”

She also blamed the move on the Government’s austerity programme but pointed out council chiefs had extended many library opening hours, including Marsh Green’s.

“The physical size of the building may have reduced but these changes will mean an improved customer service offer for residents as they are able to access a whole range of services all under one roof,” she added.

Last month it was announced that Ince, Lamberhead Green, Tyldesley, Golborne, Hindley and Ashton libraries would have their weekly hours cut from 34 to 30 hours so as to maintain six-day opening.