MORE than 4,000 people have had their say on the possible closure of libraries in Bury.

In June, the Bury Times reported town-hall bosses were considering making major changes to the borough's library services to save cash.

The council's ruling Labour group spent £13,000 appointing an external consultant to lead a lengthy consultation process.

The first phase of that began on June 13 and ended on September 5.

Data out this week shows 3,536 people filled in surveys and 500 others were interviewed over the telephone.

It is anticipated that a report summarising the feedback will go to Cabinet on October 19.

Local authority chiefs will then come up with a specific plan and a second public consultation will run from November to February.

Cabinet will make a financial decision next March, with whatever it decides being implemented next July.

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.

A report published in June said the council "anticipates that there will be a need for changes, including the possibility of a reduction in the number of libraries…in response to the continued pressures on council budgets."

The report suggested the council could try to save money by moving more services online and adding to its 130-strong team of library volunteers and there is also the suggestion that some libraries could open longer.

At a town-hall Full Council meeting on September 14 the council's support services representative Cllr Sandra Walmersley said: "The consultation has shown clear support for the six principles on which to base the future of the library service.

"These principles, along with the present and future needs of the people of Bury, will be used to develop financially realistic options for the service."

Those principles are: Providing residents with access to libraries and electronic services, meeting the needs of vulnerable residents, using resources efficiently by reducing costs, investing in technology, welcoming the contribution of volunteers and creating community spaces.

In total, 55,000 adults and 15,000 juniors are members and there are 795,200 visits made each year.

Bury has 190,159 books, 15,000 of which are bought each year. Almost 488,000 books are borrowed annually from Bury libraries.

Each day, more than 100 people use libraries to look for work and the borough has four job clubs based at libraries.

Last year, more than 5,200 people used libraries to pay bills or buy things and the distribution of food caddies by libraries says the council £16,000 a year.