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We'll try to keep Shropshire libraries open despite £1.3 million cuts, say council chiefs

North Shropshire | News | Published:

Every effort will be made to keep Shropshire's libraries open – despite £1.3 million being slashed from the services's budget.

But council chiefs said today they could not rule out the possibility of some closures as part of a review into the county's 22 libraries over the next three years.

Michael Lewis, library service manager at Shropshire Council, said he hoped to avoid losing any of the library service's 150 staff.

He said: "The libraries are sometimes seen as a very soft target for cuts, but what we try to do is to counter the argument by saying these are community-driven places and we want to keep the community vibrant by keeping the libraries.

"We've still got to make difficult choices, but we are trying to make sure there are no job losses. I'm not saying there won't be job losses, because if a library does close then there won't be those jobs there any more. But if we move the service we will move the staff."

Last year Shropshire Council approved £80 million cuts over the next three years, which came on top of £87 million of savings the authority has already had to make since 2009.

Councillor Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council's portfolio holder for business, culture and commissioning, said the cuts will be made through a restructuring of services and amalgamating libraries with other services.

He said: "We have to reduce costs as much as possible and make it sustainable for the future.

"It's common knowledge that a lot of councils have tried to reduce costs in libraries as much as possible but you can't keep going and taking things out of libraries until it falls over. What we're trying to do is to increase footfall by transferring them to the community or work with the community to take over some services or provide locations.

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"We see core libraries in the market town centres as getting extended use and becoming community hubs. We've already done that in Oswestry, and these hubs have been approved by cabinet this week for Ludlow, Market Drayton, Whitchurch, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth.

"In other places we're looking to relocate, such as with Church Stretton, to take costs out of it. I think it costs £55,000 a year to run Church Stretton library and if we can relocate it to the school we cut those costs to nothing while still keeping the staff and facilities."

However, he warned some libraries could face the axe if no better options are found.

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