Library jobs under threat to save cash

Central Library in Blackpool
Central Library in Blackpool
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Council chiefs are reviewing staff numbers at Blackpool’s libraries - but have pledged the move will not lead to any closures.

The 50 staff working across the town’s eight libraries were called into meetings last week as part of a consultation process.

Blackpool Council said it could not say how many jobs might be at risk.

It said the restructuring was part of overall savings of £18.7m from this year’s budget, which includes making 80 people redundant with another 70 contracts to end.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are hugely proud of having kept the six libraries that we inherited in 2011 open, and on having re-opened two libraries that the Conservatives wanted to close.

“As the Government is forcing a further £20m of cuts upon us this year, we have chosen to restructure the management of the library service, and seek further efficiencies.

“However all eight Blackpool libraries will continue to operate normal opening hours and there is no proposal to make any changes that will impact on service users. Our record on libraries is one of the strongest in the UK.”

As part of last year’s budget cuts, opening hours across Blackpool’s eight libraries were reduced from 307 a week to 266-and-a-half to save almost £85,000.

Mereside, Moor Park and Palatine libraries closed for one to two hours over lunchtime last week for a staff consultation regarding the restructuring plans.

The council said it hoped any redundancies would be made on a voluntary basis. The new structure is due to come into force this summer.

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 Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council said: “The council has to realise the potential in our library buildings not just for lending books but places where residents can pop in for a coffee, pay their utility and council bills etc. Instead of simply chipping away at the service, they should be investing time and money into looking how they can improve services between council and the community.

“In my ward Anchorsholme, Coun Galley and I are investing in a new cafe in our library which will be operated by individuals from the Independent Living centre.

“This will not only provide a much needed asset to the area and enhance the libraries offer but also help those who are striving for independence.”

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