LIBRARY users in Blackburn and Darwen have been left facing a triple whammy as part of the council’s £6million cuts programme.

Reduced opening hours have been introduced at the borough’s five libraries - just 12 months after the service was last slimmed down.

Library fines have also been increased, up to 18 pence per day, and exemptions for the under-16s and over-65s have been scrapped.

And the music section at Blackburn Central Library has been drastically slimmed down because of competition from online downloading.

The measures, are part of a plan to slash the £2million libraries budget by £500,000 over a two-year period, and are already proving unpopular with lenders.

John Millar, 53, of Preston New Road, said: “There used to have racks and racks of CDs in the old music library - now it’s just a single row tucked away at the back.”

Last August it was confirmed that Roman Road Library would be run by community volunteers and if this proves successful then similar provisions could be phased in at the Mill Hill and Livesey branches.

Coun Damian Talbot, the borough council’s leisure and culture executive member, said: “There are various reasons why Blackburn Central Library’s audio-visual department has been affected in this way.

“The rise in technological advances such as downloading music means that CD borrowing has been dropping for the past few years due to reduced demand.

“Borrowing of films is also dropping recently for similar reasons and there have been reductions in the resources fund but this is due to increase in the next financial year.”

In contrast Lancashire County Council is beginning a £5.5million investment programme with work taking place at Brierfield library and recent projects completed at Burnley, Haslingden, Colne and Accrington libraries.

County Coun Mike Calvert, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “Unlike many other councils, we are not closing any of our libraries.

“In fact we are continuing to invest in the service wherever we can. This will help to ensure our libraries not only remain open but provide modern, flexible resources, fit for the 21st Century.”