Libraries 'saved' in budget

By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

KIRKLEES Council has reined back plans to find savings of £370,000 in its libraries service.

Instead it will plough the money into a revamp focusing on libraries as hubs for a range of services such as the voluntary and community sector, primary care and communities teams.

Chief librarian Carol Stump’s project focuses on the “wider community function” including more volunteer input.

Coun Graham Turner (Lab), is spearheading the library service shake-up. “It’s not a U-turn,” he said. “This is about investing. We have seen the value of libraries. The streamlining of the service continues and we are not going back to the old-fashioned ways.

“However we are no longer making those savings, where we would have had to look at staff costs and running costs.”

He said no frontline staff would be cut and no trained librarians would be replaced by volunteers.

“We are in a position to put something back and to continue that innovative approach. That means we continue to develop and improve the library offer in Kirklees.” The libraries cash forms part of the council’s proposed budget for 2020/2021, which will be discussed next month.

In an address to Cabinet, which approved the proposals, Coun Turner described it as “a budget full of ambition and investment”.

And he warned that austerity was “still alive and well as far as funding for local government is concerned”.

He added: “We made very difficult and unpopular decisions at times. However we can deliver a budget that is more ambitious than (in) previous years and starts to undo the damage done to Kirklees and its residents by austerity.”

Investment in Early Learning Support and Education Support to Vulnerable Children is also to be a priority. Previously planned savings of £250,000 in this area will be reversed. There is also a plan of £206,000 for virtual schools – a service for looked-after children.

Council leader Shabir Pandor said Kirklees had lost 60 per cent of national funding since 2010.

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