Bolton Council’s 200-page report into the future of libraries in the town is set to be approved next week. The Bolton News’ political correspondent Steven Thompson explains the finer details.

APTLY described by Bolton Council chief executive Sean Harriss as “a weighty tome”, the final report into the town’s library service outlines the closure of five libraries.

Faced with a massively reduced budget - £64 million over two years, £100 million over four - the Labour-led council last year set out its “philosophy and approach” to how it would make cuts.

It said it would seek, first to protect the most vulnerable adults and children in Bolton. It then said it would reduce the quality of its overall service “from excellent to good”.

And it is in this context, the council explains, that libraries could not be exempt from the cuts.

The review states that the council’s statutory responsibility is to provide a library service for bolton, not necessarily a branch library service.

Around 2,000 people filled in the council’s suvey online or at a library with 55 per cent disagreeing with their proposals to close the five libraries.

Save Bolton Libraries handed in another 300 or so surveys and, unsurprisingly, 95 per cent rejected the plans.

Just 793 people responded to the 7,000 surveys sent out to a “random stratified sample” of Bolton residents, with 65 per cent this time agreeing with the plans.

This has led some to question why the council are placing more stock in the response of the random sample, over those who responded online.

Simply put, the council sees the random sample as being the most representative of the community as a whole — or as Mr Harriss put it, this is “a more accurate public view, not just the loudest voices”.

The main gripe campaigners and the Bolton Conservatives have with the final report, is that the council has not listened.

But the council points to the fact that it has now retained Heaton library as a community building.

Neighbourhood collections will be based at the Oldhams Children’s Centre; Tonge Moor UCAN; the Heaton library building; the Orchards in Farnworth; and Halliwell UCAN.

Each will have 300 books, but these will be regularly rotated by the council’s “man with a van”. The collections will be mainly self-service, although a library worker will be at one of the collection points each day of the week.

The council’s main message in the report is “quality not quantity”. Most residents in Bolton, the review states, will still live within two miles of a library.

Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris maintains that he does not wish to cut a single council service, and that includes the libraries. But faced with such a huge budget reduction, he believes the council has no choice.

A special meeting of the council full executive, which is open to the public, will be held in the Festival Hall, at 10am, next Wednesday, when the eight members of the Labour executive are expected to rubber stamp the proposals. A protest will be held outside the town hall on the same day by the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, starting at 9.15am.