I am a great fan of public libraries. In the past, I was part of a (successful) campaign to keep my local branch library open when it was threatened with closure and I believe libraries provide a vital community resource that is difficult to replicate elsewhere.

So I have mixed feelings about Cheshire East Council’s decision to cut back on library opening hours across the borough.

Yes, I understand the financial pressure the council is under and I also understand there is a need to set a budget that inevitably means cutbacks have to be made.

And sadly, as ever was, libraries are a soft target.

But it’s not that simple as the Library and Information Association (CILIP) says: “The provision of a comprehensive and efficient library service is a statutory responsibility on national and local government under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.”

In layman’s terms, councils, by law, have to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient library service’ and the national government is responsible for ensuring this happens.

But it is amazing how many councils up and down the country have played fast and loose with the words ‘comprehensive’ and ‘efficient’ and how the government has allowed them to get away with it.

How many libraries across a borough counts as comprehensive? Does one large central library in a main town count as efficient?

And if a library goes from more or less full-time opening to part-time, does that meet a council’s statutory duty?

These are the sorts of questions councils, including Cheshire East, have had to wrestle with as funding has been cut over the years and latterly as energy costs have soared and inflation has started to bite.

So I am sad that Cheshire East has announced it will be reducing library opening times. And call me cynical but I find the vague assertion that normal hours could be restored in the future a little hollow and unrealistic.

The good news, however, is that the council is not closing any libraries and has not gone down the route travelled by so many other local authorities.

Since the Tories came to power, more than 780 libraries have been closed with the loss of 10,000 staff.

And I suppose I must give credit where it’s due with Cheshire East actually taking note of the feedback it received from its public consultation, reversing the proposal to close libraries on Saturday.

Make no mistake, libraries are important.

As Welsh historical novelist Ken Follett said: “The most valuable thing a country can have is an educated workforce and this is what libraries are about: even if you only come here to borrow books for pleasure, you’re still improving your literacy skills…we don’t have to invent such a programme for educating – we have this fantastic network of libraries and dedicated people who run them who are idealistic about a nation that is literate and computer-literate.”

So my question is, does this Tory government actually want a thoughtful, educated workforce with improved literacy skills? I rather think it doesn’t.

On another issue, I notice that Tatton MP Esther McVey has told prime minister Rishi Sunak that ‘time is of the essence’ in stopping ‘illegal immigrants’ crossing the Channel in small boats.

Far be it from me to correct Ms McVey but words matter and not for the first time I feel the need to point out that in international law – which this country subscribes to and in many cases actually helped to draw up – those crossing the Channel are not illegal while they are in the boats and when they set foot on British soil.

As the website fullfact.org states, refugees seeking asylum in the UK can’t be penalised for entering the county by irregular means if they are claiming asylum and coming from a place where their life or freedom are threatened.

They may also stop over in other ‘safe’ countries en route to the UK.

This means people who enter the UK by irregular means can legitimately make a claim for asylum, even after passing through other ‘safe’ countries, provided they do so directly after arriving.

As I said before, the UK signed up for this.

However, undocumented migrants using an irregular route to come to this country will become ‘illegal’ immigrants if they don’t offer themselves up to the authorities and make an immediate claim for asylum.

And some asylum claims are turned down by the authorities. Those who find themselves in this situation would then become ‘illegal’ and could be detained and removed from the UK. The same applies to those who overstay their visas.

Yes, those crossing the Channel in small boats are a problem. Yes, asylum-seekers being put up in hotels across the country at great expense to the taxpayer are a problem.

But the solution is not demonising them. Opening up safe routes where asylum claims can be made and verified before travel would go some way to dealing with the issue as would employing more officials to check the asylum claims of those already here, getting rid of the massive backlog which last week saw a record 160,000 asylum seekers in the UK awaiting decisions on their claims.

Those who are granted asylum would be given permission to live and work here. Those whose asylum claims fail could and should be returned to their home countries.

But both of those solutions take planning, resources and a willingness to act in a humane way.

I suppose it’s far easier for the right of the Tory party to dehumanise asylum-seekers, categorising them all as ‘illegal’.

As I said earlier, words matter.