Lancashire to go ahead with 'disgraceful' library cuts

Lancashire to go ahead with 'disgraceful' library cuts

Lancashire County Council has decided to press ahead with plans to close more than 20 libraries after a 12-week consultation.

In May, the council proposed to close 29 libraries in a bid to make £200m worth of cuts by 2020.

Following the consultation, which received a total of 7,719 responses, a report has been drawn up recommending that libraries in Morecambe and Carnforth will retain full library status, while the future of libraries in Brierfield, Bacup and Whitworth are still under review.

Libraries set to be lost include Rosegrove, Briercliffe, Barrowford, Trawden, Oswaldtwistle, Rishton, Walley and Read.

In total, more than 100 buildings – including libraries, children’s centres and adult disability centres - are being earmarked for closure by the council.

The council has said that it intends to bring services together to form “a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, which would provide a base for a range of different services in one place”.

In a debate with former culture minister Ed Vaizey, Tory MP Paul Maynard discussed his "own intense frustration" and the "local anger" that has been generated by the plans.

“I do wonder why libraries always seem to be a soft target for councils of all persuasions to make rapid spending reductions," Maynard said. "I would argue that Lancashire County Council in particular has failed in its duties to provide a comprehensive library service for all residents.”

At the time, he urged the then-minister to make clear to the council that "what they are currently proposing is wholly unacceptable and that they are on the wrong path".

Councillor Gordon Birtwistle, leader of Burnley’s Liberal Democrats, said: “It is absolutely disgraceful what they are doing to our libraries. They are one of our best centres of learning and especially popular among older residents [...] The county council has got its priorities all wrong. And obviously the further east you go, the worst the impact on services is because County Hall is so Preston-centric. This is possibly the worst case scenario for us.”

David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire Council Council and portfolio holder for finance, told the BBC that the authority had tried to “make the best decisions it can” and to “come up with imaginative ways to protect services”.

He said: “It is our hope the report going to the cabinet [committee] is a better set of recommendations than [those] that came in May.”

A decision on the report will be made at a cabinet meeting on Thursday 8th September.