WARRINGTON North MP Helen Jones has questioned the rationale behind the £300K cuts being proposed for library services when compared to the overall cuts operators LiveWire are having to make.
Ms Jones said :“I understand that Live Wire’s Chief Executive has publicly stated that the organisation is making £300K cuts in the library services and £350K cuts across the rest of its activities.
“Nearly half the cuts falling on libraries seems a wildly disproportionate amount when compared to cuts across the whole of the rest of its operations. I am not aware of any rationale behind this decision – are they saying that library services are around 50% of their activities or 50% of their budget? It is difficult to know because Live Wire’s ‘consultation’ meetings do not address many of the real issues behind their actions and they have not seen fit to brief me on the matter, despite its huge importance to many of my constituents.
“It is also worth noting that figures used in their consultation have been wrong – they appear to have believed that there are only nine months in a year. That error has now been corrected but many people will have framed their responses to the consultation based on these dodgy figures and, perhaps more crucially, how do we know there are no more errors in their documentation if such a basic error could have slipped through?
“I am really starting to think that those in charge of this organisation are simply not up to the job.”
But a spokesperson for LiveWire, responded: “Following funding cuts from central government, Warrington Borough Council led a public consultation during December 2015 about Warrington’s budget to identify areas where savings could be made. LiveWire’s offer was identified by the public for a reduction in funding.
“This has meant LiveWire were asked by the council to deliver services at a reduced cost of £650k on the management fee paid to LiveWire by the council.
“£350k of this has come from a restructure of the management and central services teams and changes to terms and conditions of employment in LiveWire. This is in addition to savings that LiveWire has made to all aspects of its services over the last few years.
“In regards to the other £300k worth of cuts, LiveWire has been asked to modernise its service by moving away from stand-alone sites and to combine services in one site based on neighbourhood models that have been successful in Orford and Woolston and in other areas across the country.
“LiveWire’s vision is that health and fitness activities, the activities that people pay for, will be able to support library and learning provision and activities across Warrington in the future. To do this, LiveWire need to develop commercial elements of the organisation to generate more income to invest in the free activities and resources.”
The LiveWire spokesperson, added: “A systems error has been identified by LiveWire which meant that three months of visitor figures at one site, Culcheth Library, were not included in the totals used in the consultation presentation.
“This is just one figure out of around 120 key indicators including book issues, PC use, running costs per site and attendance to activities measured at each library which are being taken into account as part of the consultation.
“The visitor figures for Culcheth have been amended and the correct figure has been shared publicly and all residents who have fed into the consultation either about Culcheth Library or about visitor figures will be contacted individually to make them aware of this error.
“Even with the amended visitor figure, visitor numbers at Culcheth Library have dropped by 28% between April 2010 and March 2016.
“The aim of LiveWire’s consultation has been to put forward ideas and views of how to attract people to use libraries and increase reading and learning in different ways.”