Plans to cut library opening hours attracts record response from residents

Halton Clr Phil Harris

Halton Clr Phil Harris

First published in News Runcorn and Widnes World: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

AROUND 1,000 residents have given Halton Council their views as part of a consultation on the future of the borough’s libraries.

Councillors have vowed to keep all four libraries open but need to make budget cuts as part of an ongoing efficiency programme.

The library service currently costs £2 million to run annually and two proposals to reduce opening hours could save £400, 000.

The libraries employ two managers, 17 full-time staff and 44 part-timers.

Clr Phil Harris, board member responsible for libraries, said: “There has been a huge response from library users - the highest to a public consultation on a council service that I can recall.

" It clearly illustrates how valued the library service is to Halton people.’’

Hundreds of comments submitted in the completed questionnaires will be considered and reported on before any decisions are made.

The first option proposes opening libraries for 154 hours a week, maintaining 85 per cent of current hours, saving £400,000. Runcorn and Ditton would close on Wednesdays.

Option two is to reduce opening hours by almost half to 96 hours, saving £500,000. Runcorn and Ditton would shut on Mondays and Fridays. Widnes and Halton Lea would open longer on Saturdays, from 10am to 4pm.

The first option the Council wanted feedback on proposes libraries opening for a total of 154 hours a week, which would see the buildings maintain 85% of their current opening hours and save £400,000. The second option was to keep libraries across the borough open for 96 hours a week – 53% of their present total – which would bring a saving of £500,000.

The move comes as the Government further reduced the money it gives to Halton Council, which means that the local authority must find savings of £46m over the next three years.

A report will go to the council’s Executive Board on 2 October.

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