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Have your say on library closures at meetings

Walsall | News | Published:

Residents can have their say on plans to shut seven libraries in Walsall at a series of consultation events taking place across the borough.

Branches at Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pleck, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood could close under the cost-cutting proposals by Walsall Council.

The authority also wants to axe the mobile library service and 13 jobs as part of a bid to save £328,854 next year and £159,058 the year after.

While new technology including self-service machines and a new smart card entry system is planned at libraries which remain open.

Around £300,000 could be invested into some of the remaining nine libraries to bring in a new management system, allowing visitors to use them when they are unstaffed.

Customers would be given a special card and PIN to access the libraries when they are unmanned, with CCTV keeping watch and a book detection system used to keep track of items leaving the building.

The home library service which delivers books to residents who are housebound would continue.

The council has now organised a series of events, which will all run from 6pm until 7pm, aimed at giving residents the chance to discuss the proposals and raise their views.

They will take place at Pleck on December 8, Beechdale and Walsall Wood on December 9, South Walsall on December 10, Blakenall and New Invention on December 15 and Rushall on December 16.

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The council is hoping that volunteers will come forward to help run book exchanges where libraries close.

Walsall Council's deputy leader Adrian Andrew said any groups interested would be supported by the council.

He said: "Each community will be supported if volunteers come forward to run and retain their own libraries.

"This is already working well at Pheasey library and I believe this can happen across the borough."

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Willenhall North Councillor Ian Shires is among those who have spoken out against the closure plans. He has called it a 'short-sighted' move, saying libraries are 'an important part of people's lives.

A library questionnaire is online at www.lovelibrarieswalsall.co.uk or by emailing libraryconsultation@walsall.gov.uk or by phoning 01922 650322.

Walsall Council needs to make £25m of cuts and savings during the next year.

The budget will include a 1.99 per cent rise in council tax – the absolute maximum the authority can impose without resorting to a referendum. The opening hours at New Art Gallery Walsall will be cut and street cleaning services will be reduced.

While more than 350 people will lose their jobs and a further 100 posts will be axed under the money-saving measures.

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