A CONSULTATION process around proposed changes to library services has been slammed by councillors.
Libraries officer Maria Byrne gave an update to council members at a localities meeting which said Cheshire West and Chester Council was going through a consultation process with all library staff.
The total number of staff would be reduced and there would be eight full-time librarians left to cover the borough, leading to savings of £330,000 in addition to a £50,00r0 reduction in the book fund.
Mrs Byrne said changes had to be made to the service as the number of people taking books from libraries was falling and librarians would be concentrated on bigger libraries at Chester, Ellesmere Port, Neston, Northwich and Winsford.
She said there would be two roles for librarians, with ‘locality’ librarians which would “partnership development and engaging with the community” and ‘community’ librarians which would “deal with the face-to-face delivery and enquiries from the public”.
Mrs Byrne said the quality of service would remain the same as responsibilities for managing staff and the building would be taken off librarians so they could get on with the tasks they were qualified for.
She said consultation about the changes to the mobile library service would take place in mid-May after the staff consultation was completed. But Labour councillors were furious about what they called a lack of consultation about changes to the library service before staff consultation had begun.
Cllr Louise Gittins said it was the first time the councillors had been made aware of any changes to librarians job descriptions.
She said: “My worry is this will get pushed through without proper consultation with residents and ward members. This needs to be looked at properly.
“One concern I have is the numbers of staff being reduced and what is happening to our qualified librarians. We have been given no job description information.”
Cllr Samantha Dixon said changes were happening “under the radar”.
“You are doing the staff reductions before the consultation,” she said. “I am getting calls from concerned residents from across the borough asking me about rumours they have heard and I have no answers to give them. Now there is a box around what is happening because of the staff consultations and that means the issue is closed until mid-May.”
Cllr Angela Claydon attacked the plans, saying: “We do not want the well-meaning Mrs Bloggs from down the road who is only there on a Tuesday sorting out complex enquiries. We need someone who is available for people to do this skilled job.
There are all sorts of rumours flying around and we need to know because we have not been told anything.”
Tory member Neil Sullivan defended the plans. saying libraries needed to change when IT was changing so quickly. He said: “In my mind it makes sense for librarians to be doing more of what they are good at rather than managing buildings and teams. There is no proposal here that all our libraries will close. We are changing the service, not closing the libraries.”
See full story in the Chester Leader