Walsall library visitors in fall of 90,000

Almost 90,000 fewer people have visited libraries in Walsall within four years, it has emerged.

Walsall library visitors in fall of 90,000

It comes as cash-strapped Walsall Council is looking to close eight libraries by 2017 in a bid to save more than £500,000.

There were 1,222,649 visitors to buildings across the borough in 2010/11 compared to 1,134,465 in 2013/14, figures have revealed.

In total there were just over 88,000 fewer people who attended libraries, of which half are now at risk under budget proposals.

Those earmarked to shut are Pheasey, Streetly, Beechdale, South Walsall in Delves, and Walsall Wood next year.

Then three others in Blakenall, New Invention and Rushall are earmarked to close in the the following 12 months.

This is despite both Pheasey and New Invention seeing a rise in the number of visitors during the last year.

Campaigners in both Pheasey and Streetly launched separate petitions against the proposals and more than 3,500 combined added their names.

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However, a public meeting at the Central Library over the controversial cuts was attended by just three people.

Seating for more than 50 people had been set up in anticipation of a crowd on December 13.

People were advised to book in advance of the meeting because of the expected high turn-out over plans to close half the borough's libraries.

The meeting, which went ahead regardless, was delayed for 20 minutes to allow for late arrivals. Despite this, other drop-in events have taken place around the borough.

Council bosses have insisted there has been no final decision over the budget, which includes a raft of cuts to save £29m next year.

Leisure chief, councillor Khizar Hussain, said: "The budget consultation has already heard from thousands of people in the borough and library users have been one of the most vocal and passionate groups.

"It is important to stress that no decisions have been made yet as consultation with our customers is a statutory duty and their feedback will help inform our decisions as to which proposals are approved in February 2015."

It previously emerged the council had spent almost £20,000 asking the public what they think of the cuts, amid criticism that it was a waste of money.

This was the amount spent up to November 24 on a public consultation and it included £11,000 on telephone surveys.

Council bosses have defended the process, saying consulting the public is a key part of the decision making and that the council is committed to listening and understanding the public's views.

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