COUNCILLORS have expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in the search for a new home for Central Library in St Helens town centre.

The borough’s main library has been shut since March 2017 due to the significant remedial work required in the Gamble Institute.

Nineteen months later – and despite the council saying in early 2018 that it was looking to find a venue to rehome it – a solution has not been found.

A meeting of St Helens Council’s environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel, on Wednesday, was told that the public is “crying out” for a resolution.

One councillor said he is receiving “daily complaints” about the closure.

The council, which is still carrying out a review into the borough’s library service, has previously stated its intentions to move Central Library to a new town centre venue.

The World of Glass is the most likely destination, although an agreement has yet to be reached.

Other venues mooted include St Mary’s Market, the former Burton’s store and the Beacon Building.

Haydock Labour councillor Anthony Burns, portfolio holder for libraries, provided an update on the review to the scrutiny panel on Wednesday.

Cllr Burns told the panel it is still the council’s ambition to move the library to a new town centre location, adding that a “number of discussions” are taking place.

Fellow Haydock councillor Martin Bond, chairman of the panel, said he was “disappointed” by the lack of progress since members were last updated one year ago.

The Labour councillor said people are “crying out” for the Central Library situation to be resolved.

Cllr Bond said: “It is fundamental to have that in the middle of town.

“And we don’t seem to be any further on than where we were 12 months ago, and that’s really disappointing.

“From a panel point of view, you’ve heard what’s been said and I share those concerns, but it’s disappointing for me that we aren’t any further on with that.”

Billinge and Seneley Green Labour councillor Dennis McDonnell said he receives daily complaints from elderly residents regarding the closure of Central Library.

He said: “It’s really important to elderly people that they can carry on visiting libraries.

“They really are upset about this, and something needs to be done pretty soon.

“I am quite sure we can find an alternative building.”

Blackbrook Labour councillor Alan Cunliffe asked whether an end date had been set for a final decision on Central Library but was given no reassurance from Cllr Burns.

Cllr Burns said he was “steadfast” in making sure the council secures as much of the library service as possible and to modernise it but said this was “very difficult” with its limited resources.

Cllr Bond asked whether the council was looking at alternative methods of raising money to repair the Gamble institute, such as a public appeal or a levy.

He said it was important to have something concrete as an alternative to relocating otherwise the issue will “drift away”.

Cllr Bond said: “I don’t think that’s acceptable for a flagship, civic building like that, which is built for the purpose that it was being used for, to be left to crumble.

“That may be unfair, I’m sure that’s not  happening but in the eyes of the public, what’s going on there?

“It’s critical.”

Cllr Burns said he is challenging officers on a daily basis to come up with a solution.

“I’ve been working on this since this municipal year, so six months to date,” he said.

“And it’s difficult but we are working early hours, late evenings to come up with alternative to still provide the service.

“The ambition is still there to provide all of the work the library service is doing.

“However, it’s very, very important that we’re not hiding from the fact that resources are diminishing and it’s very, very difficult to do that with less budget.”