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Ellesmere Library will move in to community centre

Oswestry | News | Published:

Ellesmere's library should move into a new community centre as keeping it in its current location would not be financially viable, the town council has decided.

At a special meeting of Ellesmere Town Council, members voted unanimously in favour of moving the library into the Meres Day Centre, where it would be run by another organisation.

The council was responding to a consultation run by Shropshire Council, which asked people to choose between three options for the future of the library – either move to the nearby Meres Day Centre, stay in its current location in Victoria Street but reduce opening hours, or suggest a viable third option that will also save the council £8,830 per year.

Community groups are being sought to ensure libraries at Albrighton, Bayston Hill, Broseley, Cleobury Mortimer, Church Stretton, Ellesmere, Gobowen, Much Wenlock, Pontesbury, Shawbury, Shifnal and Wem have a future.

The management of Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch libraries are also set to be reviewed.

Consultation has already closed on Ellesmere, Cleobury Mortimer, Shifnal and Broseley libraries, while comments are invited on the future of Gobowen and Shawbury libraries until the middle of December. A public drop-in event was being held this afternoon between 4pm and 6.30pm at Shawbury Library.

Steve Charmley, the council's cabinet member for business and culture, said: "At all stages each individual library has had to engage with the community it serves. We believe that makes for richer engagement and a better outcome."

He added: "Consulting on the future of libraries has proved useful. For example more than 200 people in Broseley engaged with us, which is great."

A decision was made earlier this year to move Church Stretton library to the local secondary school, but residents objected to the move from the town centre and have now launched a judicial review of the decision, claiming it was undemocratic.

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Mayor Ian Ward said the council had tried to look at options to keep the library open at its current site, in the town's former hospital, and had approached Ellesmere College,

"Ellesmere College did look at the building upstairs and analysed what would be involved, and we met with the head of the college to discuss the future," he said.

"Unfortunately the costs in trying to convert the upstairs is not something that the college can afford and it's very difficult to see how we could find that sort of money either. The costs would be an estimated £30,000 to £50,000, and that would be if it was done at cost.

"We had hoped that might come out slightly better, but it did rather knock that solution. That really means that we're only able to recommend supporting option one, to go to the Meres Day Centre, and to do what we can to support that."

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The current lease on the Meres Day Centre building still has eight years to run, which councillors welcomed.

Councillor Stacy Thornton said it was reassuring that there would be some security for the library if it moved.

He said: "I don't think this is the last of the cuts but at least we're secure for eight years and we've built up allies through the consultation process, like the Friends of Ellesmere Library, so there's a band of people who would be willing to do something to secure the future."

Shropshire Council announced earlier this year that it was is looking to save £1.3 million by finding alternative management for some of its library services including Ellesmere, Shawbury, Broseley, Shifnal and Church Stretton.

Ellesmere library came under scrutiny when it was revealed user numbers fell from 25,275 in 2010/11 to 23,853 in 2014/15. The library now has fewer than 500 users a week and a total of 998 active borrowers.

Councillor Ward added: "The town council needs to work to bring other services into the library to help guarantee its long-term future. The partners that are likely to be commissioned by Shropshire Council to take on these are likely to be more social care based. We're more interested in making the library for the whole community.

"I think this will become an issue for the town council to get more involved in what happens at the library in the future. We want to see Ellesmere retain a library with at least as good services as it has at the moment, and is a vibrant centre and a community hub."

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