Friday, 13 May 2016

County Council Cut Plans Revealed: local libraries, children's centres face the chop

Photo: Alexandrr P. Kapp
(Updated 14th May 2016): Lancashire County Council's Cabinet has agreed to seek people's views on plans to change the way frontline services are delivered and save millions of pounds by reducing the number of buildings the council owns and rents - and a full list of buildings and services potentially under threat has been released.

It includes Balmoral Children’s Centre in Morecambe, Ryelands Young People’s Centre, and Bolton-le-Sands, Carnforth and Silverdale libraries.

Reaction to the proposals has been swift and furious, with some pointing out how Preston-based Lancashire County Council has earmarked just three services for closure there - Fulwood Library and two children's centres.

Lancashire County Council says it needs to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts to its budget and rising demand for services. In total, 54 Lancashire County Council buildings in Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Rossendale and Chorley may shut their doors within the next 12 months if the plans go unchallenged or alternative ways to keep them open aren't found.

Condemning the cuts, Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris told the Lancaster Guardian - which local councillor describes as "Thatcherism on steroids" - that the County Council has £325m in reserves and could afford to keep the buildings open.

“The County Council have more than enough money in reserves to adequately run their services," he claims, "and have some serious questions to answer about why they are proposing yet more unnecessary cuts.”

Responding, County Councillor Janice Hanson said the council had to keep money in reserves for potential future cuts, and said Mr Morris was in denial about the issues.
Tories jump on a band wagon to stop cuts they're
responsible for. No, we don't get it, either.

Incredibly, Tory Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard has criticised plans to shut 29 libraries as part of a multimillion-pound cost cutting exercise, reducing the number from 73 to 44 - apparently brushing over the fact that it's the reduction in government fuding that has led Lancashire Ciunty Council to make these proposals.

Writing on his Facebook page, he urged Lancashire County Council to "properly consider" social enterprise plans, which have seen community groups taking over library services and said a petition will shortly be launched urging the council to seriously consider the model as a solution. He cites how this has model has been a success for York Council and hopes the County Council will consider the idea.

Wigan Council was also one of the first councils to use the model, but at present, while leisure services offer obvious revenue streams, libraries are harder to "monetise", and sustainability is also an issue, as noted in this national Guardian article.

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.

As part of implementing savings agreed by Full Council in February 2016, the council is also proposing 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.

Meanwhile many buildings would no longer be used and the number of places at which some services are available would reduce.

The Cabinet gave the go-ahead to a 12-week consultation period yesterday, beginning on Wednesday 18 May, to invite comments and suggestions about the proposals, before taking a final decision later this year.

"The severity of the county council's financial position cannot be overstated," says County Councillor Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, who has been accused of 'dirty tricks' with the timing of the announcement by critics.

"The ongoing cuts in central government funding combined with rising demand for our services mean the only way we can maintain the services that people rely on is to deliver them in a different way," she argues.

"Whilst people can have a strong connection to individual buildings, our focus has to be on how we deliver our services effectively. Although these proposals are very difficult ones for councillors to have to consider, our aim is to come up with a solution that still gives everyone in Lancashire good access to good services, even though some will have to be further away than they are now.

"These proposals are the result a lot of hard work to assess where services should be located, taking account of things such as geographic spread, the needs of different communities, and access issues such as how easily they can be reached using public transport.

"We're very keen for people to express their views and help shape the final proposals. We'll be holding a comprehensive 12-week consultation to make sure everyone has the chance to tell us what they think, and will have the information people need available at libraries and children's centres throughout Lancashire and online."

• The proposals will now go go out to a 12 week public consultation from Wednesday 18 May where you can share your views on the proposed changes. The Council will then consider all of that feedback before making any final decisions in September.

"We know how important these services are to the people who use them and will be keen to hear your views," say the Council.

Proposed Local Closures

Lancaster and Morecambe

  • Lancaster Balmoral Children’s Centre (Morecambe) (designated)

  • Lancaster Barton Road Young People’s Centre

  • Lancaster Bolton-le-Sands Library

  • Lancaster Carnforth Library

  • Lancaster Firbank Children’s Centre (designated)

  • Lancaster Galgate Children’s Centre (Ellel)

  • Lancaster Heysham Children’s Centre and Young People’s Centre (designated)

  • Lancaster Lancaster Registration Office

  • Lancaster Morecambe Registration Office

  • Lancaster Poulton Children’s Centre (Morecambe) (designated)

  • Lancaster Ryelands Young People’s Centre

  • Lancaster Silverdale Library


  • Wyre Cleveleys Library and Children’s Centre

  • Wyre Fleetwood Children’s Centre (designated)

  • Wyre Garstang Young People’s Centre

  • Wyre Northfleet Library

  • Wyre Over Wyre Children’s Centre (Hambleton satellite)

  • Wyre Over Wyre Children’s Centre (Preesall satellite)

  • Wyre Poulton-le-Fylde Children’s Centre

  • Wyre Preesall Young People’s Centre

  • Wyre Rural Wyre Children’s Centre (Garstang) (designated)

  • Wyre Thornton Library

  • Wyre Thornton Young People’s Centre

  • Wyre Thornton Youth Offending Team (Marsh Mill)

• There's a full list for all of Lancashire here via the Clitheroe Advertiser (heaven forfend the County Council would actually post it in an obvious position on their own web site)

See Also:

• Lancaster Guardian 10th May 2016: Libraries and kids centres to close

• Lancashire Telegraph: County Council boss accused of ‘dirty tricks’ after building closure plans announced

• Lancashire Telegraph: Anger as county reveals libraries and childrens centres hit list

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