TOWN Hall chiefs at Warrington have agreed to consult the public on the possible closure of two branch libraries and the borough’s mobile library service to help make savings of £387,000 a year.
But members of the council’s executive board stressed that it would be the public that made the final decision – not the council.
The board faced two options, and Coun Bob Timmis, executive member for leisure and skills insisted: “It is for the people of Warrington to decide which option to go for.”
Option One was to close Grappenhall and Great Sankey libraries and the mobile library service.
Option Two involved reducing opening hours on average by five hours a week at all libraries.
The proposals came from an independent library review board set up in May and consisting of library users, staff, union representatives, council officers and others. It was chaired by Graham Luccock, former head of leisure and culture at neighbouring Trafford Council.
The review board unanimously supported Option One. If the closures go ahead, it will be next April.
Other reductions would be achieved through anticipated vacancies, redirection of management costs, reducing book stocks, ceasing all periodicals and making further efficiencies  on supplies and services, whichever option was chosen.
Members were told  the second option would reduce the library service to such a point that it would potentially be in breach of the council's duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service under the Libraries Act.
But while close two libraries and the mobile service would affect 2,700 users, cutting hours at all libraries would affect all 40,000 library users.
Two members of the executive board, while supporting the consultation, pointed out that they also had responsibilities as ward councillors.
Coun Mike Biggin, (pictured) of Grappenhall, said: “Clearly things can’t stay as they are. But we would be losing valuable services and some people will be affected.”
He suggested the library could be moved to Grappenhall Community Centre, where there was plenty of space available.
Coun Liz Smith, of Great Sankey, pointed out that Great Sankey Library had well-used community rooms in an area where there was a shortage of such accommodation.
“The final word must come from the people of Warrington,” she said.
Leader of the council Ian Marks said he hoped the consultation exercise would bring in some novel and creative suggestions from the public which would enable the council to maintain and develop the library service in new ways.