Anger at library opening hours

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A LOCAL MP has stepped in to support a campaign against planned library cutbacks.

Atherton MP Julie Hilling has promised to take up concerns of residents who are fighting to retain the town’s current library service.

Ms Hilling says the local community was dismayed when it was announced that the opening hours of Atherton Library would be reduced to 18 hours per week.

The premises would also be relocated from York Street to the Hesketh Fletcher school site, in Hamilton Street, Atherton, under council proposals.

Ms Hilling met with Save Atherton Library campaigners and has contacted Gillian Bishop, Wigan Council’s Environmental Services Executive Director, to consider how much it would cost to keep the library in its current building.

Ms Hilling said: “I am particularly concerned about the reduction in opening hours and I am eager to find out the reasons behind this decision.

“There are issues about public transport access in relocating to the site on Hamilton Street. I will explore how feasible it is to stay in the current building, or how a relocation can be made more accessible.”

A new four-tier plan for all the borough’s library services has been backed by members of Wigan Council’s cabinet,

Officers say the proposal will preserve library services in communities across the borough for years to come in the face of significant pressures on council budgets.

The council and its partners in Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, who manage the library service, need to find £1.1m in savings from the library budget following Government cuts.

Under the new model, Libraries Central (Wigan & Leigh) will be the format for the two town centre libraries which will operate the longest opening hours and the broadest range of products and services.

They will open between 50 and 55 hours per week.

Libraries Local (Ashton, Golborne, Hindley, Lamberhead Green, Standish and Tyldesley) will be located into smaller town centres and will offer a broad range of book stock, information and activities. Many of these will be co-located with other services or host other services. They will open 35-40 hours per week.

Libraries Express (Aspull, Atherton, Ince, Hope, Marsh Green, Platt Bridge and Shevington) are located in urban areas and communities.

They will offer core library services such as books and computers and will be self service and open for a minimum of 18 hours per week.

Libraries Direct (Abram, Orrell and Beech Hill) will provide access to a range of services that can be accessed from home.

The Mobile Library Service is withdrawn but the Home Delivery Service will continue to provide a ‘direct to door’ service for people with mobility issues.

The Leisure Trust will now work on the details of the proposals to allow the new structure to start operating in January.