Banking hubs and library lattes: Discussion over Cheshire East library cuts continue
By Belinda Ryan - Local Democracy Reporter
7th Feb 2023 | Local News
Plans to cut library opening hours will hit those who are less fortunate and need a warm and quiet space, councillors said.
Cheshire East has vowed not to close any libraries as it strives to find £20m in savings, but is looking at reducing hours to save on costs, as first reported last week.
Council officers are also holding talks with banks and post offices to see if there is the potential for them to host more services in libraries to generate income.
At Thursday's meeting of the environment and communities committee, Nantwich councillor Peter Groves (Con) said the vast majority of warm spaces in Cheshire East were libraries.
"And we're now going to reduce the hours the libraries are going to be open for those people to actually go there and actually get warm," he said, adding "I'd like us to think again."
Macclesfield councillor Ashley Farrall (Lab) said: "It's important to know libraries aren't just there for books, they're community hubs, they're safe spaces, they're quiet spaces for people that may not have a home where it's quiet to study, to get on with their school work etc.
"People may not have internet at home…. these are important community spaces."
He said if the savings were mainly staff related maybe volunteers could be used to keep the libraries open.
Deputy council leader Craig Browne (Ind) told the committee: "Whilst many of these proposals are unpalatable, we have to find £20m from somewhere."
He said when the previous Conservative administration had set out plans to close Alderley Edge Library volunteers had been drafted in to run it and keep it open.
"That demonstrates what can be achieved where there is a 'can do' attitude," said Cllr Browne.
Crewe councillor Joy Bratherton (Lab) said libraries needed to be protected.
"There has to be somewhere where these children can go and actually experience the written word in the way we all grew up with it and to love the written word and the feel of a book," she said.
"I hate to think the day will come when those things will never appear on a library shelf."
Cllr Quentin Abel (Knutsford, Ind) suggested income could be generated by serving tea and coffee in libraries.
Head of neighbourhood services Chris Allman said the council was looking at various income opportunities and coffee machines had been one.
"We're also looking at banking hubs, there's a conversation next week with Barclays around potential banking hubs," he said.
"And we've also explored the opportunities of post offices, particularly in Crewe, added Mr Allman.
"But the feedback from the National Post Office Service was the facility wasn't really applicable to host a post office of that size within that locality."
The feedback from the committee on the budget will go to Thursday's meeting of the corporate policy committee before a decision is made at full council on February 22.
While there is no confirmation that Congleton Library will have any opening changes confirmed yet, the current times are as follows:
Monday 9 am–7 pm
Tuesday 9 am–5 pm
Wednesday 9 am–5 pm
Thursday 9 am–5 pm
Friday 9 am–5 pm
Saturday 9 am–1 pm