library - Nantwich Library (Google)

Library opening hours will be reduced across Cheshire East as the council looks to save money, writes Belinda Ryan.

But initial plans to close them for at least a day and half during the week have been revised following a backlash from the public during the consultation period.

It means libraries which are currently open each weekday will continue to be, with one of those days being a half-day opening. This will be achieved by opening later or closing earlier.

The decision was rubber stamped at a meeting of the environment and communities committee, with seven voting in favour and the five Conservatives voting against.

Referring to the high number of responses from the public, Knutsford councillor Steward Gardiner said: “One line from one individual jumped out from the page at me – ‘I go to the library because I am lonely’.

“That is why we should not be reducing the opening hours of our libraries and we should be doing all we can to ensure that the assets are sweated and that the benefits of that, where we can do that in the big libraries, are shared amongst us.”

The meeting was told by the officer that options to “sweat the assets” were being explored and a deal had been struck with Barclays Bank to use Macclesfield Library at certain times.

Discussions were ongoing with others, councillors were told.

Cheshire East is also in talks with some town councils about the possibility of ‘topping up’ the service.

That includes Nantwich Town Council weighing up whether to provide funding for Nantwich Library hours.

Councillors from all parties agreed no one wanted to reduce the services.

Macclesfield councillor Ashley Farrall (Lab) said: “This is a direct consequence of national government destroying the economy… we’re having to deal with this.

“I do think we have an opportunity here, in the face of adversity, to look at how we can use our libraries to generate income with different functions.”

Shavington councillor Linda Buchanan (Lab) said she didn’t want to vote for reducing library hours but “I don’t want to see us go into a financial spiral of despair”.

Earlier in the meeting Cllr Buchanan had asked that, in towns where the half day closure was proposed for Friday afternoons, that be changed because of the impact it would have on homeless people who often sought help from library staff.

The officer said if one library was closed on a Friday afternoon a nearby one would be open.

(Pic: Nantwich Library, by Google Maps)

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