Bolton Council must make savings of at least £60m over the next two years, mainly as a result of a reduction in government funding. This represents 25 per cent of the council’s controllable budget.
As a result, each department has been set a savings target. This means that Adult Services must make savings of £4.65m in 2012/13 through a series of service reviews.
The council approved in February this year that £400,000 to £500,000 would be saved from the library service and since then a review has been undertaken on the basis of: consultation; examination of the data and the council’s requirements under the Public Libraries Act.
The Leader of Bolton Council, Councillor Cliff Morris, said: “A 12-week open consultation period has resulted in 3,284 individual responses that have directly informed how the savings could be made.
“Reviewing the library network has been a decision that has not been taken lightly and we are fully aware of the level of feeling around library closures in Bolton and throughout the UK. However, we have taken on board the views of the people of Bolton and created what we believe to be a viable and sustainable preferred option for the future of the library network.
“At a meeting of the Executive on Thursday, July 28, members were asked to consider three options. The Executive agreed in principle to adopt option one, subject to further consultation.
“The next stage of consultation will involve a postal survey, sent to a random sample of residents, which will ensure the results are representative of the population of Bolton. An additional, open consultation will be developed to allow everyone with an interest to have their say.
“The proposed new network would include 10 libraries, instead of the current 15, with Central Library as the hub. It is proposed that Central Library would open on Sundays, with Farnworth, Little Lever, Horwich, Harwood and Westhoughton becoming the five key community libraries for the borough, offering standard opening hours of 46 hours per week and becoming the first point of contact for wider council services.
“In addition, Breightmet and High Street libraries are proposed to open 40 hours per week, with the potential to develop health and wellbeing and digital facilities respectively. Blackrod and Bromley Cross libraries are proposed to open for 24 hours per week but will have full access to services via Central Library.
“A new neighbourhood collections service is being proposed to provide an alternative to library buildings at Astley Bridge, Highfield, Castle Hill, Oxford Grove and Heaton. The service would be located in a partner facility, providing a book collection and a link through to the wider service.
“The decision about which libraries to retain in option one was determined by a number of factors in addition to the consultation, including quality of building, proximity to alternative libraries, number of active users and levels of deprivation within the immediate community.
“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to continue their involvement and express their opinion on all three options before any final decision is made.”