SLOUGH’S well-loved libraries will not close this year but could see opening hours slashed after the council undertook a public consultation.

The local authority was eyeing to close the Langley and Cippenham libraries with an aim to save £400,000, as part of the council needing to find £20m savings for 2022/23.

A 12-week consultation was launched from October where service users and residents were given five proposed options, including closing the two libraries, keep all four buildings but slash opening hours and staff, reduce spend on publications, or relocate the services to different areas of the borough.

Over 2,500 people responded where shutting down the Langley and Cippenham buildings was deeply unpopular. The most popular option was to reduce the hours the libraries are opened and staffed.

Slough Observer: Cippenham LibraryCippenham Library

Speaking at Wednesday’s customer and community scrutiny panel, Liz Jones, group manager for localities and neighbourhoods, confirmed to councillors they will not recommend to cabinet to close the two buildings but to slash library opening hours. It is not yet known what the proposed hours will be.

She said the “time is right” to make sure the libraries are “fit for the future,” given the council’s financial position and Covid.

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While ensuring the libraries are affordable by also cutting spending on hardback books, Ms Jones said they want to expand the service’s digital offer and improve literacy and reading for all residents.

The libraries are safe for now, but councillors were warned the service could be moved elsewhere, such as in schools or The Centre on Farnham Road.

The executive director of customers and community Richard West said: “This year, 2022/23, we feel we will be able to make enough of a saving whilst still keeping the buildings open, but we will continually need to look at that.

“As an authority, we’ve got to make £20m of new savings each year after next year, so that’s where the tension is.

Slough Observer: Langley LibraryLangley Library

“But at the same time, we have to provide services. Nothing can be off the table again next year but clearly, by having the consultation, we’ve got some really good intelligence and information about what people want from the libraries.”

There is “no secret plan” to relocate the service but is something officers are considering in order to save more money in the years to come. But the service would have to be “genuinely accessible” to residents if officers are to propose this move.

Councillor Zaffar Ajaib (Lab: Langley St Mary’s) said: “If we look at the set up of Slough, the residents it has, and the transport links we have as it stands, I think there is a need to keep the status quo in some guise in places like Langley, Cippenham, Britwell, and so on.

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“I think it would prove difficult for people to access some of these services. As time goes on in ten years’ time as we go more digital, I can see some services being delivered through schools and other means, but I think the current set up of the town does require to have a local service in those areas.”

Cabinet will make the final decision on libraries at a meeting on Monday, March 21.