BURY Council has “cleared up rumours” about the future of the borough’s libraries.

Last month the Guide revealed plans that could see libraries closed to save cash.

A consultation has been started which will run until September 5 giving people the chance to have their say on the future of the centre.

Cllr Sandra Walmersley, cabinet member for resources and regulation, told members of the public at a Ramsbottom, Tottington and North Manor Township Forum meeting that she and Elizabeth Binns, head of libraries, had come to “clear up rumours”.

She said: “Some of these rumours have been going around on social media. The consultation at this stage is just on service provision.

“As a council, we have a duty to provide a library service to the public.

“There aren’t specifics around budgets in this consultation because we didn’t want to set out a budget at the start and work towards it. What we want to do is look ahead and see what the needs are for the public.”

Cllr Walmersley told the meeting at Tottington Methodist Church that since 2010 the council had had 50 per cent of its budget from the Government cut.

She added: “This is not an excuse. This is a reality of where we are at. That’s an enormous thing to take in and accept and libraries is just one of the things that the council will have to review. Every single department will be under financial pressure.”

The borough has 14 libraries including ones in Radcliffe, Prestwich and Whitefield.

Three double up as adult learning centres and five double up as community centres.

The council report which triggered the consultation stated that it “anticipates that there will be a need for changes, including the possibility of a reduction in the number of libraries.”

Head of libraries Mrs Binns was keen to stress to the members of the public that no decision had been made to close any libraries.

She said: “I believe the council is behind the library service. There are difficult decisions not just for libraries but for every council service

“With the consultation we want to make the decision together. We have not made any decisions as of yet without you.

“It’s two-and-a-half years since the last consultation. To be frank and honest, we didn’t get it quite right last time. We made the savings that we were asked to because that was the first thing in that review.

“The savings are the last thing in this one, we are trying to get it right this time so that we can provide a service that’s not only good for now but good for the next five or 10 years or more. That can adapt for the needs of all.

“We need to know what people want and that’s what we are trying to build on.”

The consultation is being led by an external consultant at a cost of £13,000 who is speaking to people who do not currently use the service to find out the reasons why.

A report summarising the feedback will go to cabinet on October 19.

A second public consultation, including specific proposals, will take place from November to February and cabinet will make a financial decision next March.

Any changes will be implemented next July.

Paul Jenkins, aged 38, of Ramsbottom, has set up a Keep Ramsbottom Library Safe Facebook page.

He said: “It wouldn’t be right for us to count any chickens because this consultation document is almost identical to the one that went out about children’s centres and look what happened with them.”

“There was strong opposition to children’s centres and they still decided to close them. If that can happen then I don’t think that we can be confident that they won’t close any of the libraries.

“Everyone should get involved with the consultation.”

Residents wanting to get involved with the consultation have until September 5 to do.

It can be found in libraries or online at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/bury-libraries-consultation