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Cheshire East library proposals to be discussed

Proposals for how Cheshire East’s libraries could be run in the future will be discussed next week.

A report will be presented to Cheshire East Council’s environment and communities committee that gives an update on work to bring forward an updated strategy for the borough’s libraries and respond to the significant financial challenges facing the council. 

It also seeks approval to launch a public consultation on the draft strategy, which will include asking for feedback on a tiering system for how library services would be promoted and invested into going forward. 

The council must make savings in library services of more than £600k over the next two years to support the council’s medium-term financial strategy (MTFS) 2024-2028. The MTFS needs to achieve budget savings of £100 million to continue offering support to Cheshire East’s most vulnerable residents.  

Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council’s environment and communities committee, said:

“The draft libraries strategy has been developed following the library service review held last year. 

“Feedback from a public consultation held at the time showed that libraries are very important to our residents.  

“However, major financial challenges mean there is far less money available to spend. We must look at a different way of running our libraries so that we can still offer these valued services in the places where demand and need is greatest. 

“In doing this, it provides us with opportunities to invest in our core sites, explore how we can use them to generate income, and to use new technologies so library services are more accessible to our residents. 

“It also gives us the opportunity to deliver a service that’s in partnership with our local communities, and to look at how library and other council services – such as those offering support around health and employment – can be delivered in a more joined up way.” 

The proposed tier system for libraries, which mirrors how many other councils already operate their own sites, is: 

Tier one – Congleton, Crewe, Macclesfield, Nantwich and Wilmslow. These sites would become ‘library hubs’ and continue to provide the core library services along with free support around health, employment, skills, education and personal finance, and host other services, such as banking hubs. 

Tier two – Alsager, Holmes Chapel, Knutsford, Middlewich, Poynton and Sandbach. These sites would continue to offer the core library and customer services, with opening hours updated to match when the libraries are busiest. Some of the sites – dictated by need – could include some of the targeted services found at the tier one sites.  

Tier three – Alderley Edge, Bollington, Disley and Handforth. These sites would be known as ‘community libraries’ and act as customer service points and offer a small range of activities.

They would be staffed by Cheshire East Council employees for up to 1.5 days during the week.  The council is engaging with community organisations and town and parish councils to explore opportunities for them to operate library services in their local areas during the remainder of the week.  

Tier four is the existing mobile library and the home library service, which is delivered by volunteers and offered to those residents who are unable to leave their homes. 

Subject to approval by committee on 18 July, the public consultation on the libraries strategy is expected to launch in August. 

After considering the feedback from the consultation, final proposals for libraries will be developed and brought back to committee in autumn. 

Read the full report to the 18 July environment and communities committee.

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