BOLTON Tories want to take £200,000 from area forum budgets to save the town’s libraries.

Announcing his plans at a public meeting on the future of Astley Bridge Library, Conservative leader Cllr John Walsh said the forum budgets were unfair, with deprived wards getting thousands more than other wards.

Cllr Walsh, flanked by fellow Astley Bridge councillors Hilary Walsh and Paul Wild, said the money could keep five “at risk” libraries open for another 12 months.

Now his proposals will be debated at a meeting of the full council next week.

Cllr Fairclough added: “My number one priority is to keep this library open.

“This building is very important to Astley Bridge and, if we lose this building for community use, then any vestige of our independence within Bolton disappears.

“There are over 25,000 visits made to this library every year. It is a meeting place, a place of study, a place to access the internet and a valuable resource for our local schools.”

Tories also want to look at setting up charitable trusts to take over the running of libraries. Volunteers could then take on some of the roles in libraries, alongside paid staff.

Plans also include using the libraries to generate income, by hiring them out as meeting spaces, or setting up small coffee shops or internet cafes within libraries.

Union bosses have expressed concern at some of the Bolton Conservatives’ plans. Bernadette Gallagher, UNISON branch secretary, said: “We would firmly resist any attempt to use volunteers to replace paid staff.”

The council is proposing to close five libraries—Astley Bridge, Highfield, Castle Hill, Oxford Grove and Heaton — a move which could save up to £400,000.

New neighbourhood “collections”

are being proposed in these areas.

Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris said: “The Government cut the whole of that area forum budget, so we had to put as much as we could into deprived areas to tackle crime and to try to narrow the equality gap.

“We will look at the proposals, but I don’t think it is something we can support.

These areas need the money the most.”

Bolton Council is halfway through a second period of consultation on the future of the library network.

To have your say on the closures go to