Libraries axe plan up for special scrutiny

The next crucial step in the quest to save Fylde libraries takes place at County Hall this afternoon.

Thursday, 22nd September 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:45 pm
Louise McLaren, chairman of the Friends of Ansdell Library, at a protest against it closure with Friends members (from left) Catherine Baxendale, Ian Lowe, Carmen Lowe, Graham Holroyd and Gail Norris.

A special meeting of Lancashire County Council’s Scrutiny Committee will now debate whether to ask the Cabinet to reconsider its decision to close and sell off a swathe of library and children’s services buildings across the county – including the libraries at Lytham, Ansdell, Freckleton and Kirkham in their current form.

The county council cabinet two weeks ago approved the sale of more than 100 buildings. Lytham and Freckleton have already been earmarked for closure at the end of this month, while Ansdell would be open until sometime next year, while work is carried out to convert St Annes Library into a neighbourhood centre.

Groups at Ansdell and Lytham have made bids to run community libraries there and expect to hear whether they have been successful next month.

Meanwhile, library services at Kirkham would be transferred to a new neighbourhood centre close by at Milbanke House.

But a cross-party group of seven councillors, including Tory group leader Geoff Driver and two Labour members, asked for the cabinet decision made on September 8 to be ‘called in’ and reviewed.

County Coun Driver made an early election pledge to reopen any closed libraries and support any voluntary groups which step in to run any libraries if the Conservatives win control next May.

He said the predicted financial shortfall for 2020/21 now stood at £148m when earlier predictions had been £262m, adding: “I can find them another £50m without breaking sweat.”

Today’s special meeting of the scrutiny committee starts at 3pm.