MOBILE libraries could be axed as Halton Council faces £46 million of Government cutbacks over the next three years.

Councillors have approved savings of at least £400,000 as they vowed to keep the borough’s four main libraries open.

The executive board sanctioned cutting opening times to 157 hours a week. This is 86 per cent of the current opening hours and represents a staff budget saving of £360,000.

The libraries employ two managers, 17 full-time staff and 44 part-timers and cost £2 million a year to run.

It is not yet known if any jobs will be lost.

Consultation is currently under way with trade unions and employees.

A record 1,011 residents reponded to public consultation.

Halton Lea and Widnes libraries would be open six days a week and until 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday.

Ditton and Runcorn would have a late night on Tuesday until 6pm and close on Wednesdays.

All four libraries would open on Saturday from 10am to 2.30pm.

Councillors are now asking for residents’ views on the future of the mobile service.

Halton Clr Phil Harris, board member for libraries, said: “We have pledged to keep all four libraries open.

“Our libraries are held in high esteem which was shown by the large volume of responses we received.

“We have taken on board all the comments which were made.

“We are maintaining our housebound delivery service for the elderly and vulnerable.”

An outreach service at Castlefields Community Centre in Runcorn has also been retained.

Axeing the mobile library could save between £20,000 for refurbishment and £75,000 to replace the vehicle.

A Halton Council spokesman added: “All responses to the consultation will be analysed and no decisions will be taken until after all the results have been considered and a report produced.”

A questionnaire on the proposed closure of the mobile library service will be available from Friday, October 10 at all four Halton libraries, the mobile library, Direct Links and community centres.

The consultation runs until October 31.