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Vision for future of Warrington’s libraries set out

Warrington Borough Council’s executive board is being asked to approve new plans which will see all of the borough’s libraries remaining open for the foreseeable future.

The executive board will discuss the recommendations for the future of Warrington’s library service next Monday (11 December 2017). It follows extensive work by the Libraries Working Group, set up in March 2017, to define a sustainable future for libraries in the borough.

Under the plans, LiveWire and the council will maximise resources by working with external partners at a number of libraries to create ‘mini hubs’, with integrated services focusing on learning, wellbeing and community.

The key recommendations for each of the borough’s 11 libraries are:

  • Birchwood– relocate the library into Birchwood Leisure and Tennis Centre and redevelop this site to become a Neighbourhood Hub.
  • Burtonwood– relocate the nearby Post Office into the library to maintain both services. The Post Office is currently consulting with the public over the relocation.
  • Culcheth– the council will explore the possibility of capital investment to enable potential partners, who have expressed an interest in renting space in the library, to develop their offer.
  • Lymm– drive forward discussions with local partners to rent currently empty and underutilised space in the library building.
  • Orford– no change to be made to existing library at Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub.
  • Padgate– build on partnership with Longbarn Residents Association – who have taken a small office in the building – by seeking other partners within the community.
  • Penketh– maintain the current library offer working with the Friends of Penketh Library, while exploring how the library could benefit from the wider masterplan currently being drawn up for area.
  • Stockton Heath– explore options to reconfigure the space within the library to unlock its potential for income generation and widen its scope to deliver community activities. The council and LiveWire will work closely with the Stockton Heath Library Working Group and local parish council to deliver this.
  • Warrington Central– to undergo no change with regards to the current services delivered. LiveWire will work in partnership with Culture Warrington to develop a Heritage Hub for the town within this building.
  • Westbrook– no change at present, until there is more clarification regarding the plans of the current landlords for the Westbrook District Centre.
  • Woolston– no change to be made to the existing library at Woolston Neighbourhood Hub.

Additionally, a new library will open shortly as part of the Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub development.

A number of the proposals would see investment from the council in refurbishing and reconfiguring buildings to make them fit-for-purpose as sustainable community hubs.

Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, said: “I’ve said from day one that we will listen closely to residents on this important issue. These recommendations are the result of months of hard work, with the views of local people always at the heart of the discussions.

“I would like to thank all members of the working group who have worked so hard and so positively together. The financial climate is not getting any easier, but I have been enthused by the ideas put forward by local communities on how libraries can work in partnership with local groups, parish councils and small businesses.

“Each library has been looked at on an individual basis, with its own business case developed. That gives me real confidence that we can make these plans a reality.  I’m delighted that we have come up with recommendations which aim to protect, but more importantly, sustain libraries across the borough for years to come.”

Professor Steven Broomhead, chair of the Libraries Working Group, said: “The last eight months have seen our group making tremendous progress in mapping out a sustainable future for our libraries.

“Constructive, positive dialogue has been at the heart of all of this and we believe these recommendations provide the way forward to maintain and develop our library service now and in the future.”

The Libraries Working Group was formed following a public consultation in 2016, led by library operator, LiveWire – which incorporated the views of more than 2,400 residents.

Emma Hutchinson, managing director of LiveWire, said: “It was clear to see from last year’s consultation how passionate residents are about library services here in Warrington. We took on board all views and I’m really pleased that our Working Group has been able to take many of these forward in shaping these recommendations.

“LiveWire is committed to providing a high quality library service for every community in Warrington. In these challenging financial times, we believe these recommendations would enable us to achieve just that.”

As part of the recommendations, the council is committing an investment of £150,000 in 2018 to enhance the book budget. LiveWire will be investing an additional £50,000 on new books each year.

If the recommendations are approved, the delivery of the modernisation programme would be overseen by a new Libraries Partnership Board – made up of representatives from the council, LiveWire, the third sector and Friends of Libraries groups.

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