Libraries ‘will shut without change’

Coun Tony Williams
Coun Tony Williams
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Calls have been made to bring Blackpool’s libraries ‘out of the 1960s’ if they are to be protected from the threat of closure in future.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Tories on Blackpool Council, says long term solutions must be found if the town’s lending service is to survive.

Blackpool's libraries, including Palatine (pictured) need to change in order to survive warns a councillor

Blackpool's libraries, including Palatine (pictured) need to change in order to survive warns a councillor

This year, opening hours across Blackpool’s eight libraries have been reduced from 307 a week to 266-and-a-half to save almost £85,000.

It is proposed to open a cafe at Anchorsholme Library in a bid to bring in extra revenue, and Coun Williams is calling for similar ideas to be considered at all the town’s libraries.

He said: “At a scrutiny meeting in March, council leader Coun Simon Blackburn confirmed the library service had to utilise volunteers and also create an income of around £100,000 a year if they were to survive. so presumably if this doesn’t happen then more libraries will close.

“This is a huge ask for a service that basically provides books for free and hasn’t really changed since the 1960s so there has to be some lateral thinking into the way they currently operate.

“In Anchorsholme, Coun Paul Galley and I are doing all we can to support our library.

“We are investing in a Chinese garden where people can relax, combined with future plans to incorporate a small cafe which will be run by volunteers from a support group.

“I urge all councillors, whatever political party they represent, to embrace some radical changes and work with the library service to help save these important parts of our communities.”

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy council leader with responsibility for the library service, said efforts were already being made to protect the service for the future.

She said: “I’m frankly astounded Coun Williams has the audacity to lecture us about the future of our libraries.

“When he was on the council’s cabinet, he was in charge of the service and was on the verge of closing Blackpool’s libraries.

“Fortunately Labour won the election in 2011, reversed his decisions and we haven’t closed a single library since – indeed we have invested in them and worked towards transforming them into 21st century community hubs with facilities like free wi-fi access.

“That is despite Blackpool Council being subjected to some of the harshest budget cuts in the country for the past six years.

“Let me be clear, Blackpool Labour will stand up for Blackpool and do everything we can to defend Blackpool’s library services.”

Five libraries were closed in 2004 by the then-Labour-run council. The Conservatives were set to close Boundary and Mereside libraries in 2011 but they were saved by the incoming Labour administration.

Coun Williams said: “The Labour group always accuse me of trying to close two libraries. In truth they were to be incorporated in other locations.”