Seven Fylde coast libraries and 14 children’s centres have been earmarked for closure as Lancashire County Council bids to save £200m by 2020.
The bombshell recommendation were made in a 1,468-page document released by county officials at shortly before 8pm on the Friday before a Bank Holiday Weekend – a move that has seen the authority accused of tryuing to ‘bury bad news’.
County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the Conservatives at LCC, said: “It’s unfortunate they published it as late as they did. Coupled with that, the report is more than 900 pages long with more than 500 pages in an appendix. They do not know what they are doing and the people of Lancashire are paying the price.”
And former MP Ken Hind said: “It would appear Lancashire County Council sneaked out the news following a consultation ending on August 14, just before the holiday weekend when the nation’s thoughts were on holidays.
“A good day to bury bad news – a report 1,469 pages long which is a confusing labyrinth for members of the public to negotiate.”
The county council’s cabinet will be asked to agree the revised plans to save millions of pounds, by reducing the number of buildings the council owns and rents, after seeking people’s views.
Feedback from 7,700 responses has been taken into account in forming the proposals to bring services together to form a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, which would provide a base for a range of different services in one place.
The plans propose changes to where some services including libraries, children’s services, children’s centres, young people’s centres, youth offending teams, older people’s daytime support services, adult disability day services and registrars are delivered in the future.
More than 100 buildings would no longer be used for county council services and the number of places at which some services are available would reduce.
The cabinet will also be asked to agree to explore proposals made by a number of groups to take on responsibility for running some of the affected buildings and services.
The changes are in response to Lancashire County Council’s need to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts.
County Coun Liz Oades, from Kirkham, said: “The report got later and later but I know it’s been a big job.
“It is not as bad as it seems in Kirkham. If we look at it in a positive way, we are having meetings about taking over the library and it may be that we end up better off with more services in the building, and the facility for a new scout group as well.”
County Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council and portfolio holder for finance, said: “We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation – their feedback has been invaluable in helping to shape the final proposals.
“Our aim is to find a solution that still gives everyone in Lancashire good access to good services, despite the pressures on the council’s budget. We have done a lot of work to assess where services should be located in future, taking account of things such as geographic spread, accessibility and the needs of different communities. Some of the changes to the proposals reflect what people have told us about the way they access these services.
“We’re also keen to continue exploring the potential for other groups and organisations to take on responsibility for some of the affected buildings and services The report acknowledges more work will be needed to assess the business cases put forward.”
A package of help is proposed to help establish any community-run library, including £5,000 to cover set-up costs, shelving, an initial supply of books from the county’s store, and advice from a dedicated community library development officer.
Fylde and Wyre sites to be affected
The Fylde centres earmarked for being sold off are: Ansdell Library, Freckleton Library, Kirkham Library, Kirkham Young People’s Centre, Lower Lane Young People’s Centre, Lytham Children’s Centre, Lytham Library and Registration Office, Orchard Children’s Centre (Freckleton) (designated), Pear Tree Children’s Centre (Kirkham) (designated). The Wyre centres earmarked for disposal are:
Cleveleys Library and Children’s Centre, Fleetwood Children’s Centre (designated), Garstang Young People’s Centre, Northfleet Library, Over Wyre Children’s Centre (Hambleton satellite), Over Wyre Children’s Centre (Preesall satellite), Poulton Children’s Centre, Preesall Young People’s Centre, Rural Wyre Children’s Centre (Garstang) (designated), Thornton Library, Thornton Young People’s Centre, and Thornton Youth Offending Team (Marsh Mill)