Libraries are to stay open

Coun Rob Crute pictured outside Blackhall library.
Coun Rob Crute pictured outside Blackhall library.

A COUNCILLOR has welcomed assurances that libraries will remain open despite reductions in Government funding – but urged people to use them.

Durham County Council’s cabinet will propose measures that will guarantee that libraries across the county will not have to close.

Members will be asked to run a 12-week consultation on changes to the service in a bid to balance a drop in users, with a need to save at least £145.8m over the next five years.

The county council’s Blackhall representative, Councillor Rob Crute, appeared in the Hartlepool Mail last March describing how he had forwarded a resolution to councillors to ensure the library service would continue for at least a year to ward off the threat of imminent closure of the service nationwide.

Today, Coun Crute said he was “delighted” after hearing the news that libraries in east Durham, including those in Blackhall, Peterlee, Horden and Easington Colliery, would stay open.

He added: “Naturally my immediate concern last year, when the closure proposals were first made public, was the future of the branch library in my ward, Blackhall.

“It seemed to me the best strategy for saving the library would be to submit a resolution, which was seconded by Horden Councillor Paul Stradling, to the Labour Group at County Hall and put the case for the retention of all the libraries in County Durham.

“The resolution was endorsed by the group and that, in effect, saved the library in Blackhall, along with others in the county.”

He urged east Durham residents to continue to support the library to “secure the future of this vital community service”.

Councillor Maria Plews, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for leisure, libraries and lifelong learning, said: “We need to reduce spending on library services by £1,457,000 over the next four years while still providing a high quality service to residents.

“I am pleased that we have been able to put forward a strategy for the future of the service.”

Cabinet members will be asked to agree to the consultation on various changes when they meet at County Hall next Wednesday.

If given the go-ahead, the consultation would see library users, staff and the general public asked for their views on proposals to retain the existing 11 town centre and 28 community library buildings, reduce opening hours and reviewing the mobile library service.

Proposals would see the opening hours for all town centre libraries reduced to 36 hours per week, with community libraries opening for 20 hours per week.

Specific opening times would be determined in consultation with residents, although it is expected that all would be open on Saturday mornings and one evening per week.

Under the proposals, the mobile library service would only visit communities at least four miles from a library building.