'˜A good time to bury bad news'
That's the damning accusation made after county council chiefs published recommendations to sell more than 100 libraries, children's centres and other facilities across Lancashire '“ at 8pm on the Friday before a bank holiday weekend.
The facilities, including registry offices and young people’s centres, will be sold off as Lancashire County Council (LCC) bids to save £200m by 2020.
The bombshell recommendation were made in a 1,468-page document released by county officials as part of an agenda.
The centres earmarked for being sold off include: Fulwood Library, Silverdale, Bolton-le-Sands and Carnforth libraries in Lancaster, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall and Penwortham libraries in South Ribble, Kirkham, Freckleton, Lytham and Ansdell libraries in Fylde, and Adlington Library and The Zone in Chorley.
Former MP and Longridge Ribble Valley Coun Ken Hind (right) said: “It would appear that Lancashire County Council sneaked out the news following a consultation ending on August 14, just before the holiday weekend when the nation’s thoughts were on holidays.
“A good day to bury bad news – a report 1,469 pages long which is a confusing labyrinth for members of the public to negotiate.
“Looking at the proposals, Conservative controlled areas have been disproportionately hit as Labour councillors use their control.
“Ribble Valley is disproportionately hit by these cuts in services – fair shares for all is not a watchword shared by Labour at County Hall.”
County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the Conservatives at LCC, said: “It’s unfortunate they published it as late as they did. Coupled with that, the report is more than 900 pages long with more than 500 pages in an appendix.
“There’s no need to close the libraries. We put forward a motion that kept them open and the children’s centres open which left them £1m better off. They rejected it. So we’re really disappointed but not surprised.
“They do not know what they are doing and the people of Lancashire are paying the price.”
The county council’s cabinet will be asked to agree revised plans to save millions of pounds, by reducing the number of buildings the council owns and rents, after seeking people’s views during an extensive consultation.
Feedback from 7,700 responses has been taken into account in forming the proposals to bring services together to form a network of multi-functional buildings known as Neighbourhood Centres, which would provide a base for a range of different services in one place.
The plans, which form part of the council’s property strategy, propose changes to where some services including 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 are delivered in the future.
More than 100 buildings would no longer be used for county council services and the number of places at which some services are available would reduce.
The cabinet will also be asked to agree to explore proposals made by a number of community groups and other organisations to take on responsibility for running some of the affected buildings and services. The changes are in response to Lancashire County Council’s need to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts to its budget and rising demand for services.
The report to the council’s cabinet published late on Friday outlines changes to the original plans, following a 12-week consultation held from May 18 to August 14, with a number of revisions.
County Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council and portfolio holder for finance, said: “We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation – their feedback has been invaluable in helping to shape the final proposals and the cabinet will be giving the report careful consideration.
“Our aim is to find a solution that still gives everyone in Lancashire good access to good services, despite the pressures on the council’s budget. We have done a lot of work to assess where services should be located in future, taking account of things such as geographic spread, accessibility and the needs of different communities. Some of the changes to the proposals reflect what people have told us about the way they access these services.
“We’re also keen to continue exploring the potential for other groups and organisations to take on responsibility for some affected buildings.”
and services, so we’re grateful for the interest that has been shown in that possibility over the last few months. The report acknowledges that more work will be needed to assess the business cases that have been put forward.”
The report also asks councillors to agree plans to explore alternative options for the future delivery of library services, with a focus on examining whether community-run libraries could add to the statutory service provided by the county council.
A package of help is proposed to help establish any community-run library, including £5,000 to cover set-up costs, shelving, an initial supply of books from the county’s store, and advice from a dedicated community library development officer.