COMMUNITY libraries in areas of greatest deprivation have been cushioned from the most hard hitting effects of a cost-cutting drive, according to St Helens Council’s deputy leader.

Instead of library closures, hours have been slashed by a fifth as part of the local authority’s response to making up a £50million shortfall in government grant.

St Helens Council’s Cabinet confirmed the restructure, which will save £135,000, following a six-week public consultation.

Library opening hours will be reduced from 507.5 hours to 406 hours per week, however, the current number of 13 libraries across the borough will be maintained.

Cuts at the community bases range from ten to 44 per cent and analysis shows a distinction between cuts between poorer and more well-off districts.

The most severely hit will be Rainford, where hours are slashed from 39 to 22 – and Peter Street down from 37 to 22.The town’s main Central Library is losing three hours, but will maintain 47 hours.

A total of 750 people – mainly from Central, Rainford, Chester Lane, Newton-le-Willows and Eccleston libraries – responded to a consultation. A council statement said the hours have been developed to minimise impact on communities.

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

"The hours will minimise impact in the areas of greatest deprivation and will provide services during most popular times .”