CHESHIRE East should take a leaf out of Hartlepool Council’s book and use its libraries as community hubs to make savings, CEC’s deputy leader said.

Cllr Craig Browne (Ind) said he had been at Hartlepool Borough Council last year and that authority had already implemented this.

He told the corporate policy committee meeting on Thursday: “As a result of converting that library space into community hubs, they were able to use those facilities as a front door to a whole range of council services including adults, children's services, and also introduce refreshment facilities, again, an income generating source for the council within those buildings.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Craig BrowneCllr Craig Browne (Image: Cheshire East Council)"The figure that I really took away was each centre saved that council £400,000, so it's not an insignificant sum and not a single library had to close either.”

He urged Cheshire East officers to speak with their counterparts at Hartlepool.

The deputy leader’s comments came as the committee was putting forward suggestions as to how costs could be cut.

Cheshire East is facing an £18.7m budget shortfall.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Jill RhodesCllr Jill Rhodes (Image: Cheshire East Council)Cllr Jill Rhodes (Crewe, Lab) called on officers to look at the vacant buildings the council owns.

“I don’t see anything currently in the budget for how we’re going to dispose of those assets and hopefully make some capital, or how we’re going to lease or rent them so they provide some income. I just hope we can look at that in some detail,” she said.

The Crewe councillor didn't refer to any specific buildings, but there are some which are vacant and costing the authority money.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has previously revealed how the council is spending more than £20,000 a year to mothball Bexton Court. Last year alone it shelled out £22,500 on the former day care centre in Knutsford which has been closed since 2010.

Director of finance Alex Thompson said all suggestions would be looked at.