WARRINGTON Borough Council has committed to maintain all existing library provision in the town – subject to robust business cases.
Following a report to the council’s Executive Board by Chief Executive Steven Broomhead, who has been chairing a working party reviewing library provision, members of the committee voted unanimously to maintain Warrington’s library provision, following four revised recommendations.
These are i. To commit to maintain Warrington’s existing libraries provision and keep all existing libraies open, subject to robust business cases that deliver the outcomes of a new Libraries Partnership Group. These matters will be delegated to the Director of Corporate Services in conjunction with the Deputy Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Community.
ii. To support the Vision for Warrington Libraries.
iii. To provide up to £1m in the council’s Capital Programme to support a planned programme of repairs, Maintenance and investment identified in the individual library cases and to support the investment in the book fund.
iv: To approve the development of a new Libraries Partnership Group Chaired by the Director of Corporate Services which will oversee the development of a new partnership strategy for libraries and establish a new set of performance measures.
The council’s lead member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, outlined the proposals saying there had been no “u-turn” by the council as the decision was being made following extensive consultation.
“I’ve said from day one that we will listen closely to residents on this important issue. These recommendations are the result of months of hard work, with the views of local people always at the heart of the discussions.
“I would like to thank all members of the working group who have worked so hard and so positively together. The financial climate is not getting any easier, but I have been enthused by the ideas put forward by local communities on how libraries can work in partnership with local groups, parish councils and small businesses.
Cllr Russ Bowden, deputy leader of the council and lead member for corporate finance pointed out that the council still had to achieve £300,000 savings within the budget, so it was important for the Business Cases to stack up.
Council leader Cllr Terry O’Neill stressed that the council and LiveWire were not to blame and pointed the finger of blame firmly at the government for continuing austerity and cuts which had resulted in hundreds of libraries closing across the country.
Cllr Hitesh Patel added that LiveWire had taken a lot of “flack” over the past 18 months and deserved an apology to a point, as it had been the council, including himself, who had signed off the original proposals seeking £300,000 in savings.
Under the plans, libraries operator LiveWire and the council will maximise resources by working with external partners at a number of libraries to create “mini hubs”, with integrated services focusing on learning, wellbeing and community.
The key recommendations for each of the borough’s 11 libraries are:
* Birchwood – relocate the library into Birchwood Leisure and Tennis Centre and redevelop this site to become a Neighbourhood Hub.
* Burtonwood – relocate the nearby Post Office into the library to maintain both services. The Post Office is currently consulting with the public over the relocation.
*Culcheth – the council will explore the possibility of capital investment to enable potential partners, who have expressed an interest in renting space in the library, to develop their offer.
* Lymm – drive forward discussions with local partners to rent currently empty and underutilised space in the library building.
* Orford – no change to be made to existing library at Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub.
* Padgate – build on partnership with Longbarn Residents Association – who have taken a small office in the building – by seeking other partners within the community.
* Penketh – maintain the current library offer working with the Friends of Penketh Library, while exploring how the library could benefit from the wider masterplan currently being drawn up for area.
* Stockton Heath – explore options to reconfigure the space within the library to unlock its potential for income generation and widen its scope to deliver community activities. The council and LiveWire will work closely with the Stockton Heath Library Working Group and local parish council to deliver this.
* Warrington Central – to undergo no change with regards to the current services delivered. LiveWire will work in partnership with Culture Warrington to develop a Heritage Hub for the town within this building.
* Westbrook – no change at present, until there is more clarification regarding the plans of the current landlords for the Westbrook District Centre.
* Woolston – no change to be made to the existing library at Woolston Neighbourhood Hub.
Additionally, a new library will open shortly as part of the Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub development.
The delivery of the modernisation programme would be overseen by a new Libraries Partnership Board – made up of representatives from the council, LiveWire, the third sector and Friends of Libraries groups.
- The whole item was broadcast live on Facebook by warrington-worldwide (see above)