12 Weeks to stop the axe

Campaigners opposing the axing of Burnley libraries and youth centres are hoping to use a 12-week consultation period to stave off closures.
Under threat: Stoops and Hargher Clough Young Peoples CentreUnder threat: Stoops and Hargher Clough Young Peoples Centre
Under threat: Stoops and Hargher Clough Young Peoples Centre

Nine libraries and community centres across Burnley have been shortlisted to close by Lancashire County Council as it faces up to huge cost-saving measures.

As revealed in Tuesday’s Burnley Express, five community and children’s centres, and four libraries will close pending a public consultation.

The Burnley buildings shortlisted are:

• Belmont Community Centre;

• Briercliffe Library;

• Brunshaw Young People’s Centre;

• Burnley Campus Library;

• Hapton Young People’s Centre;

• Padiham Young People’s Centre;

• Pike Hill Library;

• Rosegrove Library;

• Stoops and Hargher Clough Young People’s Centre.

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However, staff and volunteers at each will be hoping either for a last minute reprieve or the possibility of remaining open under a different model.

One of those is the Stoops and Hargher Clough Young People’s Centre in Venice Street where volunteer Chris Keene is hopeful of it continuing.

He said: “The decision to shortlist us didn’t really come as a shock. In our area of South West Burnley, there are four Lancashire County Council owned buildings so it is not surprising that one of us has been shortlisted to close.

“That said, we are located in the 15th poorest area across the whole of England, and have been providing services to local young and elderly people for 30 years now.

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“As such, we have a very emotional tie to the building and obviously want to continue.

“We will be lobbying the county council hard to have our building moved to the retained list and I think we’ve got a very strong for this, partly because of our demographic.

“Should this fail, we have been in discussions with partners for some time now over an asset transfer from the county council so we can retain this building and run it as a community group.

“We already work with a number of agencies and organisations who have expressed an interest.”

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Stoops and Hargher Clough Community Centre provides 15 hours a week of free childcare, as as well as after-school activities, dance groups and bingo in Burnley’s most poverty-stricken area.

The Claret and Brew men’s mental health group also runs sessions at the centre.

Meanwhile, Burnley Campus Library is the largest shortlisted to be close in Burnley.

The community library in Barden Lane had 1,593 average weekly visits last year, second only behind Burnley Central Library.

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Councillors are being asked to give the go-ahead for a 12-week consultation period, inviting comments and suggestions about the proposals, before taking a final decision later this year.

Subject to the Cabinet agreeing to proceed with a consultation process, it is due to begin on Wednesday, May 18th, for 12 weeks.

County Coun. Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “The severity of the county council’s financial position cannot be overstated, and the ongoing cuts in central government funding combined with rising demand for our services mean the only way we can maintain the services that people rely on is to deliver them in a different way.

“I’m acutely aware that people have a very strong connection to their local services, particularly places like libraries which are often seen as a valuable part of the community.

“Our aim is to come up with a solution that still gives everyone in Lancashire good access to good services.

“We’re very keen for people to express their views and help shape the final proposals.”