Cheshire East Council has thanked local communities for sharing their views on proposals for library services across the borough and announced that it has revised its plans following the feedback received.
Last month, the council launched a public consultation on proposals to reduce the current opening hours of libraries across the borough so that all sites are closed for at least 1.5 days during the week.
It followed the approval of the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) in February, which includes proposals for how the authority will balance its budget for the next four years whilst protecting essential services.
Having considered the significant feedback received during the consultation, the councilis now proposing to:
• Deliver the half day closure by opening later or closing earlier for four days of theweek, instead of closing for a full half day. The timings will be based on individual site usage data.
• Reinstate 31 hours per week of opening hours across the borough, targeted at siteswhere usage and demand is greatest.
The combination of these proposals means that the libraries which are currently open each weekday will continue to be, with one of those days being a half-day opening.
In addition to this, the council has received six formal expressions of interest from town and parish councils across the borough to fund ‘top up’ library services.
Subject to entering into formal funding agreements later in the year, this initiative couldpositively impact the revised opening hours for specific library sites even further.
Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council’s environment and communities committee, said: “Unlike some local authorities that have undertaken similar reviews of library services, we have never proposed any full closures of our library sites, but we do also have no choice but to change the way in which we operate our services.
“We have worked to ensure the ongoing affordability of providing a broad range of library services across the borough, while also making the necessary savings the council must deliver to protect essential services.
“As a result of the feedback we received during the consultation on the council’s draftmedium-term financial strategy in January, our original proposals were significantly scaled back to limit the impacts on library service users.
“And, during our latest consultation, we received a significant number of comments and some extremely valuable feedback that has led us to revise our proposals once more to further reduce this impact.
“These revised proposals sit alongside our work to explore opportunities to make the libraries service financially more self-sufficient, such as by bringing in third parties for wider community use benefits, for instance banking hubs.”
A report on the library proposals, where councillors will be asked to decide on the implementation details, will be discussed at the council’s environment and communities committee on 27 July.
It is expected that any changes to opening hours would be implemented from November this year.
The proposed new opening hours for each of the libraries operated across Cheshire East take into account key usage data for each site including daily visitor numbers, the number of books issued and computer usage, alongside other local considerations.