ANGRY opposition councillors are demanding an end to the uncertainty hanging over branch libraries.
Leaked emails suggest Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has tightened budgets, meaning staff sickness and holidays could result in temporary closures.
Labour councillors claim staff are being told they will have to close as there is no money for casual staff or overtime to cover leave or sickness.
Cllr Louise Gittins, shadow executive member for culture, raised her concerns when the council executive met on October 9, but council leader Mike Jones said the claims were untrue and a press release had been issued.
But no press release has been sent out and Labour councillors say the “mixed messages” are causing confusion.
Cllr Gittins said: “I have heard that staff are being told to close up libraries if there are insufficient staff.
“I want to know who took this decision and why councillors have not been consulted or even informed. Will it mean our libraries’ opening times will be decided on the basis of how many staff turn up on the day? Councillors and their local communities are being kept in the dark about this.”
An email from Shan Wilkinson, library services manager for CWaC, said the decision to cut back on casual staff could result in smaller libraries being closed temporarily to keep larger libraries open.
Labour councillor Angela Claydon said she was “appalled” the council seemed to be unwilling to provide sickness cover.
She said: “Libraries are an important hub in the community and many people rely on them. If our branch libraries open on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, then the people who rely on them will lose out.
“Any erosion of the library service is an erosion of the community.”
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture, said library services were being restructured but everything would be done to prevent temporary closures and opening hours being reduced.
He said: “It is true that we have cut back on some casual staff as part of an ongoing restructure to ensure we are utilising resources effectively.
“However, this has not led to any reductions in opening hours or temporary closures. Indeed, we would do everything we could to prevent such a change in policy.”