St Helens Central Library would have hours reduced under council's cost-savings proposals

St Helens Star: Libraries play a valuable community role like this event being enjoyed by this youngster at Chester Lane. Libraries play a valuable community role like this event being enjoyed by this youngster at Chester Lane.

THE town’s main library would be among a 13-strong network across the borough to have its opening hours cut if the council pushes ahead with a savings package.

It follows the Star’s revelations last week that service times could be reduced by a fifth under the latest moves by St Helens Council to deal with huge budget reductions.

Proposals to save £145,000 by cutting the service from 507.5 hours per week to 406 were expected to be voted through by senior councillors, as the Star went to press, setting in motion a six week public consultation.

Among the suggestions – drawn up by director of regeneration Bon Hepworth, are that Central Library, at Victoria Square, would open at 10am each morning – half an hour later than its current times – and close on late nights at 7pm as opposed to 8pm.

There would be three late nights, rather than two, however.

Council cabinet documents state that savings had previously been made in the library service without hitting frontline services – but all options have now been “exhausted”.

The proposals would avoid any library closures for a service that has one million visits a year and offers a range of digital and computing services as well as books.

But there would also be cuts to the Local History and Archive service, which would see new “public drop in and group access” sessions brought in.

The proposed library opening hours patterns sets out the following tier system:

  • One – St Helens Central Library – 47 hours
  • Two – Parr, Thatto Heath, Moss Bank, Haydock, Chester Lane – 36 hours
  • Three – Billinge, Eccleston, Newton, Rainhill - 29 hours Four – Rainford, Peter Street – 22 hours Five – Garswood – 19 hours

The council says it wants to maintain the current network of libraries while “providing services during times when they are most used by the community and service users”.

Mr Hepworth added that the proposed opening hours timetable has taken into account levels of deprivation in different communities, the levels of use and availability for after-school visits and old people’s groups.

In Moss Bank, police credited a 42 per cent drop in anti-social behaviour after 6pm to the new library. Chester Lane, meanwhile, attracts, 30 to 40 children on winter nights.

Councillor Barrie Grunewald, deputy leader of the council, said: “A lot of hard work has gone into the proposals to achieve savings while being able to keep all 13 libraries open.

“The proposed hours would minimise impact in the areas of greatest deprivation and will provide services during times when they are most used."

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