Birstall leads battle to save libraries

A GROUP was formed on Monday to keep Birstall Library open should its funding be axed in budget cuts.

About 70 residents turned up in droves and staff at the Market Street building had to find extra seats.

The meeting ended with the formation of a Friends of Birstall Library group which could take over the facility.

That would be in a worst-case scenario where Kirklees Council ends funding for all but two of the district’s 26 libraries from 2017.

Teacher Trish Foley, of Kings Drive, said: “It was an excellent turn-out and shows clear demand for a library in Birstall.

“I’d just be concerned about the speed with which we’ve jumped into the idea of volunteering.

“It's shocking that so many people could lose their jobs and yet one of the stated aims of Kirklees is economic regeneration.”

Residents were told Birstall Library costs £133,500 a year to run in terms of staff, stock and equipment.

This figure does not include rates or other building costs, or the community centre below.

The library serves about 4,000 households in the town, plus others in areas which do not have their own facility.

Kirklees Council were said to get £9m a year in council tax plus £13m in business rates from Birstall.

This is partly down to the nearby retail park, but after 2017 the town could be left with no major public services in exchange.

Birstall’s public toilets shut later this month while the market and children’s centre are also under threat.

Chamber of trade chairman Anne Thompson said a Friends group could succeed.

She added: “I'm as proud as punch of Birstall. It’s a great place to live and work and I can’t think of anywhere with a stronger community spirit.

“We're all together and if there’s one place that can make this work then it’s Birstall.”

A committee is set to be formed at the next meeting in January.

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