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Libraries in Staffordshire to be run by community groups

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Libraries across Staffordshire could be run by community groups under plans to help save the county council £1.3 million over the next three years.

Jobs are at risk under moves to transform the operation of libraries which could see the likes of police and health services asked to share buildings.

Libraries would be classed as either 'local,' 'core' or 'extra' centres in the plans being put forward by Staffordshire County Council.

Those which are classed as 'local' could then be taken over by communities. There are 43 libraries across the county of which 24 could not be run directly by the authority.

These include Heath Hayes, Hednesford, Norton Canes in Cannock; Brewood, Great Wyrley and Wombourne in South Staffordshire and Rising Brook and Gnosall in Stafford.

Council chiefs have insisted it is not closing libraries and that are looking to meet the change in demands. Across the whole of the county visits to buildings have dropped by 12 per cent in three years.

Proposals for a 12 week consultation will go before the council's Cabinet next week.

Conservative councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for children, localism and communities, confirmed there was a risk over jobs but it was too early to know the full impact of the changes.

There are currently 388 members of staff, the equivalent of 225 full-time posts in the library service. There are also 346 volunteers.

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Mr Lawrence said: "There are no plans to close any libraries and these changes are not simply about about saving money.

"It's fair to say that across the council we need to find new, more efficient ways of working, and we think the new approach will help to cut some costs.

"However, these proposals are about moving with the times so that we safeguard a much-loved service."

Opening hours for many libraries in Wolverhampton have already been dramatically scaled back by the controlling Labour group in the wake of government funding cuts. Bosses say they need to recruit volunteers to get them open for longer and that the cuts in opening hours were an alternative to outright closure.

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