Anger at library and children’s service closures

Fulwood Library is among the facilities designated for closure. See letters
Fulwood Library is among the facilities designated for closure. See letters

PROPOSALS to close more than 100 buildings – including libraries and children’s centres – have been met with anger across the county.

Lancashire County Council bosses have confirmed the locations of 105 premises it proposes to shut down, as it attempts to save £200m by 2020/21.

Leaders are proposing the closure of a raft of libraries, adult disability centres and children’s centres, in a bid to save the cash as a result of government cuts and rising demand for services.

They are suggesting bringing services together to form a network of “multi-functional buildings”, known as neighbourhood centres, which would provide a hub for different services in one place.

Other buildings would close, and the number of places where services were available would reduce.

Buildings on the hit list include Penwortham Library, Fulwood Library in Preston, Preston’s East Children’s Centre, Chorley Adult Disability Day Service, St Lawrence Children’s Centre in Barton, Kirkham Library and Garstang Young People’s Centre.

The number of libraries at fixed locations would reduce from 73 to 44, with 37 of them offering a fully-staffed service, and seven being “satellite” libraries, where people can use self-service counters.

Subject to cabinet approval, a 12-week consultation is due to begin on Wednesday, May 18. A final decision will be made later this year.

Preston East Children’s Centre, supporting young people and families across the area, is among the buildings earmarked for closure.

Brookfield ward councillor John Browne said: “It’s very sad that a county council which wants to be helpful to those who are poorest finds itself in a position where it has little choice but to close a centre which is catering for the poorest.

“I’m sad and upset for my constituents, but I do understand the position the county council is in, it’s not something they want to do.”

He described children’s centres as “very important”, and said: “Children from the poorest families have benefitted from that early intervention and care.

“But the county council has no choice.

“It’s a terrible situation for them to be in, and an awful situation for the families who are reliant on the services.”

Ribbleton Library, and Ribbleton Children’s Centre, are on the list to become neighbourhood centres.

Savick Library is also on the list to be saved, and Larches councillor Mark Yates said it was “good news” for local residents.

However, he said it was bad news for other people across the county that services were facing closure.

He said: “These places are vital for people.

“The Savick library is the centre of the community. It’s not just about books being handed out, they do job clubs, clubs for the kids, they have party days at Christmas.

“The staff are absolutely brilliant.”

Freckleton Library is on the list published by County Hall bosses of “premises that are no longer required to deliver the council’s future pattern of service delivery”.

Brian Willis, chairman of the Friends of Freckleton Library, said he was angry about the proposals.

He said: “We just feel this decision is a bad one.”

Council leaders said the plans sought to ensure people could still access the most popular services close to where they live, with library facilities within two or three miles of most homes.

But Mr Willis said: “This library is used by lots of different people, including the old and vulnerable.

“The Knit and Natter group has supported it very well over the years, they will really miss getting together there, they won’t be able to get together somewhere else.

“We are very upset.”

He said there was a “very large” petition due to be given to Lancashire County Council against the decision, and said MP Mark Menzies also planned to present it in parliament.

He said: “All we can do is try to change their minds.”

Speaking about the proposals in Preston, the city council’s Conservative group leader Neil Cartwright said: “There really has to be an alternative.

“It’s not very positive, because we just don’t know what the justification is for individual ones.”

Buildings affected under the proposals include libraries, children’s services, children’s centres, young people’s centres, youth offending teams, older people’s daytime support services, adult disability day services and registrars. The full list can be found at www.lep.co.uk