A REDUNDANCY programme has been agreed behind closed doors as part of a shake-up of Bolton's libraries.

But all the borough's libraries are set to remain open despite plans for £364,000 worth of cuts.

But the cuts will result in reduced opening times in many of the borough's outlying libraries, with some smaller ones losing as much as half a day, while some librarians have opted for retirement or redeployment.

The proposals were published on Monday September 20, with the council having pointed to a number of factors including the pressure caused by the pandemic as having made the need for savings inevitable.

Deputy council leader Cllr Hilary Fairclough says that closures have been avoided.

She said: "That would be my very, very last resort. In the previous administration that's what they did, they closed the library in my ward so I said under no circumstances will we do that."

"All libraries will remain open and people will have the opportunity to visit them."

As well as Covid-19, the council has also cited loss of income due to the economic downturn, energy price increases for street lighting and increased repair costs of council buildings as causing the need for cuts.

Cllr Fairclough said she was proud of her team for devising a plan which avoided outright closures despite the challenges that the cuts would pose.

But opposition figures say that this is another instance of the borough's services being run down.

Cllr Roger Hayes, leader of the borough's Liberal Democrat group, said: "It's absolutely ridiculous, we've got to the point were I don't see how the council provides any services at all and libraries is just another example of this."

He added: "Councillors of all parties are worried about the state of local government. It's not just the state of the libraries, you look at the state of the parks, the state of the roads, everything is looking run down."

Bolton's network of 10 libraries provide valuable services well beyond the lending of books, with educational and outreach programmes hosted within along with ranges of community events.

Cllr Hayes said: "Libraries are great centres and a lot of people, my generation especially, learned to read in them."

The final proposals will be laid out in greater detail subject to the approval of Bolton Council's council chief executive Anthony Oakman.