Cheshire East Council is consulting on revised proposals for library services across the borough after listening to feedback about how essential savings can be made over the next four years.
The council is proposing to reduce the current opening hours of libraries across the borough so that all sites are closed for at least 1.5 days during the week and has launched a consultation on how this could be implemented.
The consultation, which launched today and will run until 9 July, follows the approval of the council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) in February, which includes proposals for how the council will balance its budget for the next four years.
Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council’s environment and communities committee, said: “This year, the development of a balanced budget and four-year financial plan for the council was made more difficult in the face of ongoing and significant national funding and cost pressures, including unprecedented inflation, alongside increased complexity, and demand for services.
“There is a £20m funding gap we need to fill, while also ensuring that we can continue to provide essential frontline services and deliver on our ambitions and priorities over the coming years.
“Proposals for the libraries service were included in the draft MTFS, which was consulted on in January. Having listened to the feedback gathered during that process, the amount of savings to be made from the library service has now been reduced, which means that people will still be able to access libraries on Saturdays and in the evenings, and the mobile library service will also not be reduced.
“But while we have been able to take action based on the feedback we received and of course recognise how valuable libraries are to local communities, savings must be made, and we have no choice but to change the way in which we operate our services.
“The proposals we are now consulting on mean that all our libraries can continue to offer the wide range of services they provide – alongside the wealth of online resources and services available digitally – but ensure that we can also make the necessary savings the council must deliver to protect essential services.”
The council has put forward proposed new opening hours for each of the libraries it operates across the borough, which take into account key usage data for each site including daily visitor numbers, the number of books issued and computer usage, alongside other local considerations.
For libraries that are already closed during the week, opening hours would not be reduced beyond the 1.5 days proposed. No changes to the opening hours are being proposed for libraries that are already closed for more than 1.5 days each week.
The consultation also asks the public for suggestions about how they think the council could generate further income that could enable libraries to be kept open for longer, and for comments on how library provision should be delivered in local areas.
The council is also seeking expressions of interest from town and parish councils to explore ways of working together to deliver library services in their area.
As well as a reduction in the opening hours for libraries, the proposal agreed as part of the council’s MTFS includes a reduction in funding for the purchase of new books and newspapers.
To take part in the consultation, visit: https://surveys.cheshireeast.gov.uk/s/Library_Service_Consultation_2023
Paper copies of the consultation can also be found at each library.