Bury's libraries to become more self-service
Libraries in Bury are set to become more self-service after plans to move them into community hubs were shelved by council leaders.
The proposals were no longer judged to be cost effective and the budget shortfall is to be met by job losses.
The original plans involved moving Radcliffe Library into Radcliffe Civic Hall, Unsworth Library into Sunnybank Community Centre and transferring disability day services into Prestwich Library.
Instead, the libraries will remain open and the ruling Labour authority have said the equivalent of 20.25 staff will be lost to reduce £570,000 from its annual budget of £3.2 million.
There will be investment of £156,400 into ‘self service’ including equipment, furniture and IT at the council’s main libraries. Cllr Jane Lewis, cabinet member for leisure, tourism and culture, told last Wednesday’s Bury Cabinet meeting: “It is a no-win situation. It is regretful as we were aiming to do something innovative to protect the library service, but I would say that we are not doing nothing. We are investing in self-service technology.
“All 17 libraries are remaining open for now while surrounding authorities are not doing the same.”
The decision was met with criticism from opposition councillors, and Bury Conservative leader Iain Gartside blasted the announcement of job losses.
Cllr Gartside said: “I was shocked just as many other people were when I first read this report. The possibility of staff redundancies was mentioned in the first report in April but the scale of the redundancies did come as a shock to me and many other people.”
Labour councillors blamed the decision on cuts from central government announced during the recent spending review for 2015/16, but Cllr Gartside said Bury Council should shoulder some of the responsibility.
Cllr Gartside added: “It is all very easy to blame someone else and I am not going to do that and as the servants of Bury it is our role to find a way out of these situations. Money is being spent on other things.
“As the elected representatives of Bury it is up to us and the responsibility lies with this council and not the government.”
The age of the buildings proposed and the cost to make them fit for purpose were highlighted, with Bury Liberal Democrat leader Tim Pickstone saying these considerations should have been made before the public consultation was held.
Cllr Pickstone added: “We know that the future after 2015 is not looking rosy and we are going to have to make changes, I think by doing nothing at this point there has been a real lost opportunity.
“It feels wrong that we have started this process when there were stumbling blocks instead of seeing what the stumbling blocks were beforehand.
The consultation found support was broadly positive for the concept of community venues, but when specific locations were mentioned reaction became more negative.
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