A PANEL which was drawn up to evaluate cuts to library services has had its independence called into question by a Great Sankey councillor.

Clr Hitesh Patel (LAB Great Sankey South) questioned the make-up of the Library Service Review Panel which has made recommendations to look at closing Great Sankey and Grappenhall libraries and ending the mobile library service.

At a full council meeting on Monday, Clr Patel, Labour’s shadow spokesman for leisure and skills, claimed up to 65 per cent of the panel members were getting some form of income, either as a salary or indirectly as a grant to their employers, from Warrington Borough Council.

The panel has a mix of people including library staff, neighbourhood area co-ordinators, library visitors and union representatives among others.

Speaking after the meeting Cr Patel said: “If the panel was truly independent why did it not challenge the council’s current mis-management of the library service?

“Surely if the libraries opened at more user-friendly hours then many more people would use them?

“Once the library is gone, it’s gone forever and I’m not convinced the council is doing the right thing.”

The council is running a consultation exercise to gauge public opinion abut the library service with options including closing libraries or reducing opening hours.

Clr Patel added: “This Lib Dem-Tory council seems intent on slashing those services that young children rely on. First we had the youth service provision being reduced and now they are proposing to close down libraries.

“I know the coalition Government is forcing massive cuts but to hide behind a smokescreen of a so-called independent panel is not fair to the people of Warrington.”

Clr Patel has now launched his own consultation exercise, in which residents can fill in an online form online by going to kwiksurveys.com/online-survey. php?surveyID=HHNDMG_9b7dd543