A PLANNED shake-up could see some libraries closed down and staff made redundant.
Other plans revealed by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) include removing librarians from front line services and changing the route of mobile services.
Under the current proposals two libraries, Elton, near Chester, and Willaston, will close and be replaced by a stop on the mobile service which currently runs in West Cheshire.
A total of 16 jobs are also at risk and library staff are currently being consulted about a new staffing structure. But opposition council leaders have warned that the proposals could lead to further cutbacks in the library service.
The mobile service to old people’s homes which mostly happens in the west of the borough, Chester and Ellesmere Port, will be removed completely to be replaced by services run by the closest library.
A council spokesman said: “The decision to review library services and make savings was taken by the council at a public meeting which was widely reported. As part of this we are now undertaking a review and restructure of current staffing levels.
“All library staff, including professional librarians, are currently being consulted regarding a proposed new staffing structure and some staff may be ‘at risk of redundancy’ dependent upon the outcome of the consultation.
“The proposals set out a reduction of 16.43 full time equivalent posts, however there are new posts open to professionals and non-professionals who are at risk. Some of the affected posts are currently vacant.
“Proposals regarding the revised staffing structure to support library services are reflective of many customers increasingly being able to utilise self-service technology or online information sources and the desire for CWAC to focus resources where there is most need.
“Inevitably there will be fewer staff at larger libraries and work patterns will in some cases have to change so that busy times are catered for. However there is no reason to suppose that it will be impossible to deliver children’s storytimes or indeed specialised events with the support of other services, organisations, and possibly volunteers.
“Customers will see a change to the way services are delivered, for example customers with complex bibliographical and general enquiries which need to be answered by a librarian will still be dealt with by professional staff, remotely.
“Where there are very low levels of usage there will be changes to the way services are delivered – in the Council’s budget setting meeting there was a discussion regarding replacing Elton and Willaston Library Centres with mobile stops.
“The current mobile service is expensive and used by very small numbers of customers. It is proposed that there should be changes to current routes and stops.
Customers and rural communities will be consulted before any changes are made.
“The mobile service to residential homes for the elderly visits homes in the west of the borough only. Homes elsewhere in west Cheshire have a service provided by their local library, which works well. The proposal is to provide this service across the borough.
“Library services will continue to be a very important service to CWAC and plans are currently being formulated to invest further in library services to ensure their continued success.”
CWaC Labour Leader, Cllr Justin Madders, said his party had been refused information about the changes. He said: “There is a very serious concern about what is going on below the radar.
“An emerging pattern of secret consultation with staff who are fearful of losing their jobs. No strategic picture is being presented to councillors and there appears to be no consultation with the public. This could lead to the wholesale dismantling of the library service and is being done behind closed doors.
“This is typical of a council that refuses to engage properly with the people or their elected representatives. Yes, there are tough decisions but playing fast and loose with valued services and people's livelihoods isnt the way to go about it. We call on the Council to be open and honest about their plans.”
He also slammed the changes on the elderly home service. He added: “This is a typical example of how this Council targets the most vulnerable without any discussion with the public or any thought for the consequences of their actions.”
See full story in the Chester Leader