Library service facing cuts of £1.9m

FUNDING for the district’s libraries looks set to be hit again in the latest round of council cutbacks.

Kirklees councillors will be asked to give the green light to plans to cut £1.9m from the library budget – just a year after cash for libraries was slashed from £5.7m to £3.9m.

The proposals will go to Kirklees’ full council meeting on February 15. If they are given the go-ahead, a public consultation will be held in the spring before the cabinet decides in summer how library services will be delivered.

Despite the cuts, Kirklees closed only two of its 26 libraries last year – but stopped funding another 14, handing them over to community groups and volunteers.

Coun Graham Turner, cabinet member for resources, said the council would look to deliver the best possible service, despite the cuts.

A report to the council’s cabinet said: “Kirklees Council completed a review of the library service in 2016-17, saving £1.85m over the period April 2016 to March 2017, including the £1.35m savings for 2017-18.

“The reduction of £1.9m for 2018-19 will require a further significant service review and will impact across the library service budget. This includes a review on the number of libraries the council can continue to support. There are currently 24 libraries in the portfolio. Supplies and services and book fund budgets will also be reviewed.”

The report did not specifically mention library closures – but it said reducing the number of libraries could see more customers use those libraries that remain.

“The budget has to get through cabinet and full council,” said Coun Turner. “This is only a budget recommendation and we will make a decision on February 15. If it goes through, it will be a big reduction in spend.

“We will have to review the whole service again and see what we can develop. As before, we will ensure we develop the best possible service we can for the people of Kirklees given the financial restrictions.

“We have had preliminary meetings with the staff, members and directors to look at ideas that we could develop in the framework of the money we have available. We will start with a blank sheet of paper.”

In 2015, the council split its 24 libraries into eight ‘town libraries’, which remain fully staffed, and 16 ‘community supported libraries’ with one librarian each backed by community volunteers.

Last March Kirklees announced that 20 library staff members would be leaving voluntarily and 14 were moving into different roles to avoid the need for compulsory redundancies.

Friends of Heckmondwike Library chairman Chris Martin said: “We are very disappointed to hear the proposal for further huge cuts to the budget for libraries when the library service is still recovering from recent cuts and reorganisation. Any cut to libraries affects young people and those who rely on them most.

“If you’d like to help support your library, we invite you to join us at our meeting in Heckmondwike Library on Tuesday February 28, at 7pm.”

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