Library decision will echo around Kirklees

THE decision taken by Birstall residents will find an echo in all those areas of Kirklees which are in danger of losing their libraries.

Others will follow Birstall’s lead.

Under one Kirklees Council plan, the current annual budget of nearly £6m would be cut to £2.5m from 2017.

This would leave only two libraries open – probably Huddersfield and Dewsbury – and retain some other services such as transcription and Braille.

Another proposal would see the budget reduced to £3.9m and also keep Huddersfield and Dewsbury open.

There would be two other types of libraries retained – town libraries and community libraries.

Town libraries would offer full services and be staffed by at least one professionally-qualifed librarian, plus paid customer service officers.

Community libraries would have fewer services, reduced opening hours and be staffed mainly by volunteers.

Chief librarian Carol Stump said Birstall, Batley, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Mirfield may be considered as town libraries.

Ravensthorpe’s Greenwood Centre and Thornhill Lees Library might be in the second category.

North Kirklees has only eight of the district’s 26 libraries, so South Kirklees could bear the brunt of changes.

If the council decides in February to cut the budget to £2.5m, the equivalent of 100 full-time jobs would be lost. This figure would fall to 60 if the budget was reduced to £3.9m.

Birstall residents heard that once the cuts are made the library service is unlikely to be restored.

Teacher Trish Foley, of Kings Drive, Birstall, said: “It’s worrying that this could be the end of what we’ve got for the end of time.”

Coun Robert Light (Con, Birstall & Birkenshaw) said he hoped it would not come to that.

The Tory leader vowed to argue at cross-party talks for the library budget to be kept in full.

He added of the first ‘nuclear’ option (to cut the budget to £2.5m): “We’ll fight the administration on what’s proposed.

“It would mean the physical relocation of council services from outlying towns to Huddersfield.”

Coun Light added: “The closure of Birstall Library is not an option as far as this ward’s three councillors are concerned.”

Dathan Tedesco, Labour’s pick for Birstall & Birkenshaw at May’s council elections, warned it may not be possible.

He said: “I don’t doubt Coun Light’s sincerity in wanting to keep Birstall Library open.

“But I think it’s a bit disingenuous for him to say the £6m budget can be saved given the cuts that are coming from central government.

“And no matter which party is in power in Kirklees, they would all have to look at the ‘nuclear’ option.”

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