NON-ESSENTIAL council services are due to be closed down for an extended time over the Christmas period.

For 16 years, from Christmas 1992 until 2008, St Helens Council closed down between Christmas and New Year, requiring employees to take annual leave or flexileave during this period.

This arrangement stopped in 2009.

Since this time, all departments have been required to provide staff cover during this period, with individual working arrangements ensuring an appropriate level of cover.

At cabinet on Wednesday, councillors approved plans to reintroduce elements of the previous arrangement, whereby specified council services are not available over the Christmas period.

Cllr Kate Groucutt, cabinet member for corporate services, estates and communication, said: “Since 2009, the council has ensured that there is staff availability to cover all council services over the three-day Christmas period, between Christmas and New Year.

“However, it’s become apparent that for a range of our services there is no or minimal demand from the public during this time.

“Many other councils and our partners, such as Torus, do not deliver services over this period for precisely that reason.”

Cllr Groucutt said the revisions will ensure the council’s limited resources are used as “effectively as possible”.

She added that the effect on the public will be “minimal”.

Cllr Groucutt added: “For some services, this will extend the close-down period from the statutory three days to six days in total.

“But this is based on the understanding that requests for those services decrease significantly during that period and the effect on the public will be minimal.”

Employees undertaking specified services which are identified as being “essential, emergency and/or of particular benefit to the community” will remain operational.

Leisure and library services will continue to deliver services to their customers over the Christmas period, although there will be reduced opening hours.

The cabinet report says possible closures of town centre bases, including the town hall, the Gamble Building and Lincoln House, will be likely closed over the Christmas period.

Once full consideration is given to those services required to be operational, Wesley House and Atlas House are likely to be utilised over this period.

The report says a consultation will be undertaken with trade union representatives prior to any extended closure.

It is anticipated that there will be no major objections from the trade unions to the proposal, once services identified as being exempt from the closure period are agreed.

If the closedown period does go ahead, it will do so from Tuesday, December 24 until Thursday, January 2.