LIBRARY opening times could be slashed in Barrow and South Lakeland, under consultation proposals.

Cumbria County Council is reviewing opening times for libraries in the two authorities, with reduced hours proposed at Barrow, Walney, Ulverston, Grange, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal and Milnthorpe.

Collectively almost 40 hours could be cut across the sites and services could shut completely on Sundays at Barrow and Kendal, if the full measures are ultimately approved.

The council insists the proposals would not lead to additional staff redundancies, and say librarians will continue to work the same hours, spending more time "behind the scenes" while the library is closed to the public.

'Appalling'

Councillor James Airey, Conservative Cumbria County Council member for Ulverston West, believes the consultation, which launched yesterday, has been poorly communicated to the public.

He said: "This issue has been discussed under the radar for a while, something the county council has denied.

"It's appalling. People are sick of hearing about government cuts, they just want authorities to be upfront and honest.

"If they are going to cut the hours of the service in Cumbria, they should be clear about it so that communities have got the chance to come forward with volunteers if that's what they need to do."

Key changes

Other significant changes in the proposed hours include an earlier Friday finish at Ulverston Library and Windermere Library closing at 1pm on Mondays rather than 5pm.

Grange and Ambleside Libraries would also close for one week during the year due to being single staffed and there not being enough holiday cover.

While many libraries will close 30 minutes to an hour earlier, there are some exemptions.

For example, Grange Library could open longer on Saturdays and Roose Library could open on Wednesdays, with a collective net opening gain during the week of 30 minutes.

Reasons for proposals

Cllr Ian Stewart, cabinet member for community services at Cumbria County Council, said: "The council is committed to libraries. They are about more than just books. They are community hubs providing access to a huge range of resources, experiences and learning.

"But like all council services, government cuts have put financial pressure on libraries. We’ve made every effort to manage this without affecting the service the public receives and as a result Cumbria has avoided the wholesale changes to library services which have occurred elsewhere in the country.

"But on occasion there have been days when there have been unplanned library closures because cover staffing has not been available. This is something we'd rather avoid, we want people to know for certain when libraries will be open.

"Alongside this we've also been reviewing when people are actually using our libraries. This is to make sure we use our resources most efficiently.

"Taking these issues into account we are now proposing some limited changes to opening hours that reflect these two issues."

Consultation details

Residents are being invited to give their views on the plans in a consultation which runs until June 17, with sessions set up at various venues over the coming weeks.

Reports from the community feedback are due to be presented in July at Barrow Local Committee and South Lakeland Local Committee meetings where the final decision will be made.

If changes to opening times are agreed, they will be subject to a review after 12 months.

Libraries in Kirkby Lonsdale and Sedbergh and Library Links in Arnside, Coniston and Dent and book drops at Burton in Kendal and Holme are not affected by the proposal.

Should the library proposals get the go-ahead?

Give us your say on whether the full proposals by Cumbria County Council to cut opening hours and close libraries on Sundays should be passed through.

Yes - libraries are used less now and councils need to balance the books

No - libraries play a vital role in the community

How you can give feedback

- Full details of the consultation can be found here

- Completed questionnaires can be completed any library in Barrow and South Lakeland.

- People who want to give their thoughts can email barrow.areasupport@cumbria.gov.uk and kendal.library@cumbria.gov.uk or write a letter to Barrow Library, Ramsden Square, Barrow, LA14 1LL and Kendal Library, Stricklandgate, Kendal, LA9 4PY.

- Drop-in sessions to explain the changes are being held across the area, including:

- Kendal Library: Wednesday June 1 from 10am to noon, Wednesday June 8 from 10am to noon, Thursday June 16 from 10am to noon.

- Ulverston Library: Thursday June 2 from 10am to noon and Friday June 10 from 2pm to 4pm.

- Milnthorpe Local Link: Friday June 3 from 2pm to 4pm.

- Grange Local Link: Tuesday June 7 from 10am to noon and 2pm to 4pm.

- Ambleside Local Link and Children's Centre: Wednesday June 8 from 10am to noon.

- Windermere Library: Monday June 13 from 2pm to 4pm.

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