MEMBERS of a new working group acknowledged ‘hard decisions’ will have to be made about the future of the town’s libraries.
The first meeting took place at the town hall on Wednesday and was chaired by council chief executive Steven Broomhead and included LiveWire chief Emma Hutchinson as well as three independent advisors.
Gary Borrows, appearing on behalf of the Save Warrington’s Libraries group, said: “We have to make some hard decisions and we know that.
“Transparency is a big issue. I think looking back that has been a problem for some people. We want to know that the staff there are going to be developed and professionally trained. That’s not to say you can’t have volunteers though.”
He added that campaigners are happy for businesses to team up with libraries to help cover overhead costs.
Part of the group’s role will be making decisions about the future of each library and Mr Broomhead added that the plans outlined in LiveWire’s report are ‘open to debate’.
The Friends of Penketh Library group was praised for organising activities for schoolchildren and residents.
LiveWire also confirmed that the book fund, the money spent on library books, will remain the same as it was in the 2016 to 2017 budget, at £103,944.
The group will initially meet every three weeks, with meetings open to the public and documents published on the council’s website.
They will then make recommendations for each library in September, which will go to the council's executive board in November for the final decision.
Mr Broomhead said: “This was a very constructive, informative first meeting, which laid the foundations for how we will be working together over the coming months in order to test the feasibility of business cases that came from the consultation recommendations.
“I believe the different areas of expertise brought by the group’s members will leave us well placed to take account of, respond to and build on the feedback we received during our public consultation on the issue.
“We are all agreed that our priority is to define an achievable and sustainable strategy for libraries, wellbeing and community learning.”
The next meeting takes place on April 5.
Group looks for solutions for individual libraries
SOLUTIONS for Culcheth and Stockton Heath libraries were discussed at the first meeting of a working group at the town hall.
Members of the public who attended the event were invited to ask questions.
Cllr Joan Grime said: “The proposal in the report about moving to Culcheth High School was very, very unpopular. We feel that LiveWire are waiting for us to find an affordable solution."
Matt Parker, strategic manager at LiveWire, said the company would be working with the community to find an appropriate solution and he has been in discussions with the Culcheth Library working group.
Meeting chair Steven Broomhead confirmed the council will also be seeking legal advice about the covenant Culcheth Library, which restricts changes being made to the building.
Emma Hutchinson, managing director of LiveWire, said a possible public sector partner has been found to share the Stockton Heath Library site, but had been asked not to identify the organisation.
She also emphasized that there are no plans to move the town centre library to Golden Square shopping centre and said whilst the working group is active, there will be no changes to libraries, no reductions in opening hours or staff levels.