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Essex: Libraries and recycling centres face cuts

PUBLISHED: 09:10 02 February 2011

LIBRARIES across the county will have their opening hours slashed as the service looks to save about £4 million over the next two years.

Essex County Council (ECC) has revealed plans to reduce the public’s access to 54 of its 73 libraries as well as removing 21 jobs and cutting its fleet of 12 mobile libraries by one.

Libraries in areas of low population will be hardest hit and could see their opening times cut by almost half. Holland On Sea Library in Frinton Road, which is currently open for about 30 hours a week, would be open for 16 hours under the new plans.

Other changes would see Colchester Library’s opening times reduced by eight-and-a-half hours, Braintree by 13 hours, Clacton by eight hours, Frinton by 14 hours and Harwich by 10 hours.

A consultation is now being held for the public to express their preference between two patterns of opening hours.

Jeremy Lucas, who is responsible for libraries on ECC, said: “Consultation is a crucial part of the libraries’ reorganisation. We want to offer our customers the opportunity to express their preference for the pattern of opening that best suits their needs.

“Essex Libraries have already taken a number of steps to reduce the net cost of the service, partly by actively seeking ways of increasing income.

“For example, since January 1 we have been delivering the library service for Slough Borough Council, to the mutual benefit of the two authorities.

“We have also established a variety of income-producing shared uses of our library buildings with other partners within Essex, whether a district or parish council, or other parts of the public sector such as the NHS or the police.

“These measures are not sufficient in themselves to make all the required savings but the approach we have adopted is flexible enough to offer the opportunity of extending opening hours again wherever we can introduce further revenue-producing arrangements with other organisations.”

The consultation will run for six weeks from Monday February 14 until Sunday March 27. Customers can take part by completing a form at their local library or following the instructions online at www.essex.gov.uk/libraries.

Further money-saving plans revealed by ECC include a reduction in its network of 23 recycling centres across the county by up to six. Remaining centres would close at 4pm throughout the year, instead of the later opening times during the summer months.

Council leader Peter Martin said the aim was to “reduce inefficiency across our recycling services”.

“The review will ensure that we focus our recycling service on sites being available in the right places at the right times and that there is continued investment into kerbside recycling collection services,” he said.

Cuts to the libraries and recycling centres will be considered at an ECC cabinet meeting on Monday February 8.

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