‘Drop new library and rescue all the others’

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INSTEAD of slashing opening hours at most town and village libraries, the council should scrap plans to build a new library in Halifax, says Coun Colin Stout.

In a council survey in 2010, users said longer opening hours was one of the things they wanted most.

But at Monday’s cabinet meeting, councillors have been advised to reduce the opening hours of libraries in Brighouse, Elland, Hebden Bridge, King Cross, Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden from 45 to 37 hours a week.

The mobile library service could also be reduced to a single vehicle solely for those who are housebound and in care homes.

“What is the point of spending millions on a new library and archives in Halifax when other library services are being slashed?” said Coun Stout (Ind, Brighouse).

“Of course there are some serious decisions to take about cutting costs but it is no good protecting Halifax to the exclusion of everywhere else,” he said.

The opening hours of community libraries in Skircoat, Shelf, Rastrick, Northowram, Mixenden, Hipperholme and Beechwood Road are also under threat in a bid to reduce library overheads by £150,000 a year.

A total of 2,235 people responded to the latest council survey on opening hours and they were equally divided over whether there should be cuts to the six biggest branches.

In a report to Calderdale Council Cabinet, community services director Robin Tuddenham said the libraries were one of the most highly valued council services.

“It is clear that closing libraries is the least favoured option to achieve the required savings.

“While reducing opening hours received a mixed response, a higher percentage favoured this approach rather than closures,” he said.

The council is currently consulting on what a new library at the bottom side of Halifax Piece Hall should contain. Councillor Stout and several other senior councillors are furious that no one is being asked whether this a suitable site, and many claim they have been misled.

l New computers costing up to £300,000 are needed to catalogue Calderdale library books, monitor acquisitions and manage financial records.

The existing system was installed in 1999 and has now reached the end of its useful life, according to Mr Tuddenham.

Rochdale Council is the only other authority in England still using the old system and the cabinet has been asked to authorise Calderdale’s replacement.