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Shropshire library hours to be slashed

Oswestry | News | Published:

Libraries across Shropshire face more reductions in opening hours as part of cost-cutting measures, with one councillor warning the service is facing "dangerous territory".

Shropshire Council has unveiled plans to cut hours at 12 of the county's libraries in an effort to cut around £55,000 from its budget.

A consultation on the proposals, which include blanket changes to close all 12 affected libraries at 5pm, and from 1pm on Saturdays, was launched yesterday, and will run for six weeks.

Under the proposals no libraries will open after 5pm, no library will open before 9.30am, and with the exception of Shrewsbury no library will open after 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Bayston Hill Library – opening hours will reduce by two and a half a week, with a forecast saving of £1,900 per year. The library will close at 5pm on Tuesday instead of 7.30pm.

Bridgnorth Library – opening hours will reduce by 14.5 a week, with a forecast saving of £5,530 per year. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm on Mondays, as opposed to 7.30pm, will be closed entirely on Thursdays, and from 1pm on Saturdays.

Ellesmere Library – opening hours will reduce by three hours, with a forecast saving of £920 per year. Under the proposals it will close at 5pm instead of 6pm on Fridays, and 1pm on Saturdays.

Gobowen Library – opening hours will reduce by two hours, with a forecast saving of £1,000. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm instead of 7pm on Tuesdays.

Library at the Lantern (Harlescott) – opening hours will reduce by three hours, with a forecast saving of £2,690. Under the proposals it will close at 5pm instead of 6pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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Ludlow Library – opening hours will reduce by seven hours a week, with forecast savings of £4,800 a year. Under the proposals it will close at 5pm instead of 7.30pm on Fridays, and 1pm instead of 5pm on Saturdays.

Market Drayton Library – opening hours will reduce by six and a half each week, with a forecast saving of £6,320 a year. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm instead of 6pm on Mondays and Fridays, as well as at 1pm on Saturdays.

Much Wenlock Library – opening hours will reduce by two hours per week, with a forecast saving of £1,340 a year. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm instead of 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Oswestry Library – opening hours will reduce by 10 hours a week, with a forecast saving of £9,240 a year. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm instead of 6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, as well as at 1pm on Saturdays.

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Shrewsbury Library – opening hours will reduce by eight and a half hours a week, with a forecast saving of £14,160. Under the proposals the library will close 6pm instead of 8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 4pm instead of 5pm on Saturdays, and will be closed on Sundays.

Wem Library – opening hours will reduce by five hours per week, with a forecast saving of £5,990 per year. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at 1pm on Saturdays.

Whitchurch Library – opening hours will reduce by four hours, with a forecast saving of £1,500 per year. Under the proposals the library will close at 5pm instead of 7.30pm on Tuesdays, at 5pm instead of 6pm on Thursdays, and at 1pm on Saturday.

The authority says the changes have been drawn up based on usage statistics which show a 26 per cent decline in the number of people visiting libraries in the county, as well as a 19 per cent five-year drop in the total number of borrowers.

The changes will affect libraries at Bayston Hill, Bridgnorth, Ellesmere, Gobowen, The Lantern (Harlescott), Ludlow, Market Drayton, Much Wenlock, Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Wem and Whitchurch.

They come as the council is still in the process of seeking agreements on either new management or funding for its libraries. If no agreement is reached by September the libraries could face potential closure. Shropshire Council has said that there will be no job losses if the proposal is approved.

Ludlow North councillor, Andy Boddington, has voiced concerns that the changes will restrict access to libraries for people who work during the day. He said: "We are entering dangerous territory. Once opening hours for libraries and other public services are cut back, they are rarely restored. When people get used to facilities being closed a lot of the time, they use them less."

Neil Wilcox, commissioning manager at Shropshire Council, said: "There are savings we have to make within this financial year and there are further savings. As part of the approach to making savings this year, we are reviewing and consulting on reducing the opening hours."

He added the council anticipates the reduced hours will be maintained even if new management arrangements are put in place.

The proposals have added to existing fears over the fate of Ludlow Library in particular, which has seen a petition raised in recent days asking MP Philip Dunne to step in and support a campaign to ensure services are not lost, as well as vocal support from both comedienne and TV personality Jo Brand, and her mother Joyce Brand, a well-known town campaignerwho lives in the town.

No decisions have yet been made over the future of the library, which shares a building with Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, but funding is set to be withdrawn by Shropshire Council from April 2017, and no agreement has been struck over who might take it over, with Ludlow Town Council saying it would need two years to manage a transfer, not one.

Councllor Andy Boddington said: "I am concerned too that the cuts to hours are coming at a time when Shropshire Council is trying to transfer the local library service to Ludlow Town Council. It is going to be very hard to negotiate a transfer deal if Shropshire Council keeps moving the goalposts. I am far from convinced that reducing hours is the right way to go."

Nearly 600 people have signed a petition asking Philip Dunne to step in over Ludlow Library.

Jo Brand, who has done book signings at Ludlow Library, last week said running libraries "on the cheap" with volunteers "is not the way forward".

Her mother Joyce has since written to leader of Shropshire Council Malcolm Pate threatening to stop paying council tax if the authority does not give Ludlow Town Council more time to look at taking over the running or funding of services.

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