Following a public consultation exercise known as the 'Big Conversation', the council decided to close five libraries and talked of a new chapter for libraries where there would be free wifi and e-books for the technological smart set who can afford such gadgetry. Cllr. Gerald Cooney, head of Learning, Skills and Economic Growth, at Tameside Council, told the local press:
"The library service is a top priority for the council and we know how much it is valued within our community... I strongly believe this exciting new offer will provide a modern and comprehensive service which meets people's needs while also remaining affordable in these challenging times of unprecedented government budget cuts."
Despite the passing of two-years, the public as yet to see this 'modern and comprehensive' library service come to fruition. Most libraries are still without wifi even though it was installed in some libraries months ago. Several weeks ago, at Ashton central library, computers had to be removed from the computer room because rain was leaking in through the roof and there was concern that library users could be electrocuted.
The leaking roof has been a recurring problem at Ashton library for some time now. It is not unusual to see buckets placed throughout the library catching rain water which comes in through the roof. Problems with the boiler, also means that during winter, it can also be freezing throughout the library. Since the construction company Carillion, took over the maintenance of council buildings several years ago, Ashton library has certainly deteriorated.
At Stalybridge, the library has now been commandeered by 'computer buddies' who are running courses for learners. During the week the public are being allowed access to two computers for half-hour sessions. The reading room is also being utilized as a job club for the unemployed.
As head of libraries, Cllr. Cooney says libraries "are about services not buildings." Under his leadership, library staff have been leaving in droves to work in other council jobs or have taken redundancy. The latest, to announce his departure, is Adam Allen, (pictured) head of Community and Neighbourhood Service, who is leaving the council to take up the job of Chief Executive, for the Police Commissioners. A geordie with a background in sport, Allen, has been responsible for spearheading cut backs since he became head of libraries.