Lower entry fees to Lancashire's museums and plans to put libraries "at the heart" of delivering services

Lancashire families will be able to make as many visits as they like to most of the county’s museums for a flat annual fee after the reintroduction of a special pass.

By Paul Faulkner
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 10:31 am

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to bring back the Xplorer ticket, which will allow entry to its facilities for £20 per year for up to four paying visitors – two adults and two concessions or one adult and three concessions – plus an unlimited number of children, who already enjoy free admission.

The rolling 12-month ticket – available from 1st April – will be accepted at Clitheroe Castle, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum in Rossendale, Queen Street Mill Textile Museum and Gawthorpe Hall, both in Burnley, and Judges’ Lodgings Museum in Lancaster. However, the Xplorer pass will not cover entry to Lancaster Castle.

Half-price entry will also be offered to Helmshore and Queen Street Mills in May and June this year for National Trust members, with the aim of promoting awareness of both sites amongst that group.

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Lancashire County Council wants to attract more visitors to its museums and libraries (pictured: Helmshore Mills Museum in Rossendale and Garstang Library)

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The decisions were taken during a cabinet meeting at which members also approved reductions in some library charges – again, in force from April – and a refresh of the strategies for libraries and museums across the county.

Cabinet member for cultural services Peter Buckley said: “We want to do what we can to encourage people of all ages to visit our libraries and museums to learn all about their local history from the superb collections and the exhibits. [This is] especially important now as we are coming out of the pandemic and we really do want to encourage people to get out and visit [these facilities].

“We’re proud to have such wonderful libraries and museums, which are a huge asset to everyone who lives in Lancashire, playing a vital role in preserving our diverse heritage and culture and presenting our story to visitors from around the world.

“They also play a valuable part in supporting many of the county council’s core priorities, whether through providing an inspiring environment which fosters a child’s early love of reading, helping older people learn new skills online or interpreting our history in new, engaging ways,” County Cllr Buckley added.

Within Lancashire’s libraries, people with a physical impairment and those who are deaf or hard of hearing will be included in the list of groups who are exempt from charges for borrowing audio-visual materials. That concession is already on offer to the visually impaired and people with dyslexia or a learning disability.

Meanwhile, care leavers under the age of 25 will no longer have to pay for the late return of library books, an exemption which currently applies only to people under 18 and to any books borrowed from mobile libraries.

Charges for craft activities in libraries will be scrapped in order to “provide equal opportunity for all to take part”, while the reservation charge of 75p for CDs will also be removed.

In addition, art and craft exhibitions run by charitable or not-for-profit organisations and hosted in county council facilities will see the commission charged by the authority cut to 10 percent.

County council leader Phillippa Williamson said that the role of libraries and museums as community hubs had been highlighted by their closure at times during the pandemic, while cabinet member for children and families Cosima Towneley paid tribute to how those running the services had adapted to “the changes that have been made throughout society as a whole”.

LONG-TERM LIBRARY AMBITIONS

The county council’s new strategy for libraries between now and 2025 sets out a vision to:

***Promote the “libraries first” concept, ensuring that they are at the heart of delivering county council and community services – and to actively collaborate with other organisations.

***Offer a community-focused library service, which is well-resourced, accountable, and creative now and in the future.

***Use libraries to support resilient communities and ensure that residents are “healthier and have a better quality of life”.

***Create innovative and sustainable libraries which are flexible and can respond quickly to changing circumstances.