Final chapter for Burnley libraries – and community centres also get the axe

Briercliffe Library.

Briercliffe Library.

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The death knell was sounded for numerous Burnley libraries and community centres in the latest round of county council cost-saving measures.

Four Burnley libraries – Briercliffe, Rosegrove, Pike Hill and Burnley Campus – will close on September 30th after the county council’s cabinet met to approve major cuts to services, reorganisation of others and the closure of more than 100 of its buildings.

In addition, Belmont Community Centre, Brunshaw Young People’s Centre, Hapton Young People’s Centre, and Stoops and Hargher Clough Young People’s Centre will also be cut.

Meanwhile, work will begin next year to create an LCC neighbourhood centre in Burnley Library, Burnley City Learning Centre, Padiham Library, Stoneyholme and Daneshouse Young People’s, and The Zone in Burnley.

Padiham Young People’s Centre will be relocated to a neighbourhood centre between January 1st, 2017 and March 31st, 2020.

Young people’s centres at Brunshaw, Hapton and Stoops will cease by March 31st, 2017. Belmont Community Centre will close between October 1st and November 30th this year.

But it was good news for some.

Burnley and Pendle Day Service (Temple Street), Burnley and Pendle Registration Office, The Fold Co-location Project, Burnley Wood Children’s Centre, Children’s Social Care (Easden Clough), Coal Clough Library, Ightenhill Children’s Centre, Reedley Hallows Children’s Centre, South West Burnley Children’s Centre, The Chai Centre Children’s Centre and Whitegate Children’s Centre were all handed lifelines.

But Labour’s cabinet was keen to stress it was a choice they never wished to make.

Council leader County Coun Jenny Mein, who chaired the meeting, said: “I don’t want to close libraries - that’s the last thing I want to do.”

She said cuts in government funding had forced the closure decisions and while it was not just Lancashire which was suffering, the county had been one of the worst hit.

Earlier in the meeting the cabinet approved financial updates revealing the council is already £11m. overspent in the first quarter of the financial year, due in part to demands on its children’s and social care services, but believes its budget will be balanced by next April. Further reports showed the council anticipated a financial shortfall of £150m. by 2020/21.

Cuts were also agreed to the Supporting People and Prvention and Early Help services with a lifeline offered to some.

Finance spokesman and deputy leader David Borrow said: “I think there’s a growing realisation of the scale of the financial difficulties faced by the county and how it needs to be tackled.”

Extensive consultations had been carried out and views taken into account, meaning that initial proposals on 28 buildings at risk of closure were changed.

County Coun. Marcus Johnstone, Cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said: “This is what austerity looks like.”

He outlined steps taken to soften the cuts blow – with help to set up community-run libraries, investment in new modern mobile library vehicles which would offer access to digital services and the retention of the schools, prison and home library services.

The decision on which libraries would close was based on two criteria – access and the deprivation of local communities. Some 95% of people in densely populated areas would be within two miles of a main library and 70% of those in less populated areas within three miles of a library facility.

It was revealed there could be even more change ahead with a suggestion to investigate the future transfer the library service to an external provider.