CARE must be taken before a decision on the future of Bury Libraries – including Prestwich – is made, town-hall leaders have said.

Bury Council is considering making major changes to the borough's library services to save cash – and it could mean libraries closing and staff axed.

More than 4,000 people took part in the first public consultation and, now, those managing the change have introduced a two-step process so a fair decision is made.

Bury's Cabinet has now decided to table proposals at a meeting in January, hold another public consultation, and then make a final decision at a meeting March.

Previously, they planned to table a final plan next March, which would have left councillors with little time to respond to feedback as changes must be implemented by July.

At a town-hall Cabinet meeting on October 19, the council's support services representative, Cllr Sandra Walmsley, said: "It is clear from the report detailing the consultation that we have done a great deal of work to this point to ensure everyone's views are taken into account.

"We have not ruled out the closure of libraries, and we have been open and honest with people about the process."

She added: "The first consultation has thrown up a lot of great points and our task now will be do the second part of the consultation, where we will be able to use the comments we have already received to target questions so we can find out what people want us to prioritise.

"We must take great care when making this decision."

Both Bury Lib Dem leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone and Bury Conservative leader, Cllr Iain Gartside, acknowledged the thoroughness of the consultation and praised The Guide for obtaining further consultation comments in a Freedom of Information request.

Cllr Pickstone said: "I am concerned that these views that people have expressed were not in the original report.

"In particular, quite a lot of people raised concerns about the prospect of unpaid volunteers replacing paid staff."

Cllr Gartside added: "I agree with that point. My father-in-law volunteered at the Lowry in Salford and, soon after they had to let go staff, he decided to leave.

"We understand that the council is having to make some tough choices and it is important that the consultation process is thorough."

Visit to see the council's library service consultation reports.