Cull of libraries brings cries of protest throughout region

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FURIOUS campaigners in Bradford have added their voices to the growing cries of protest across Yorkshire as the district became the latest part of the region to face a wave of library closures.

City council leaders yesterday announced plans to shut libraries in Addingham, Denholme, Heaton, Wilsden and Wrose as part of a £30m savings package.

The proposals mean almost one in six of the district’s 31 libraries will close this year if councillors agree the plan on Thursday.

Services at the city’s Central Library will also be slashed, with an entire floor to close as several sections are merged. Extra charges will be introduced for all users and jobs lost across the service.

Protests were getting under way within hours of the council’s announcement yesterday morning.

Elizabeth Hellmich, of the Heaton Township Association, said: “It’s going to be a huge loss for our village. They have cut the opening hours back so much and now they say it is underused. But they don’t realise what a big impact it will have. You keep taking facilities away from Heaton and in the end it won’t be a village any more.”

The situation in Bradford mirrors many other parts of the region, with 65 libraries now facing closure across Yorkshire.

There was some relief in Doncaster yesterday when Mayor Peter Davies bowed to pressure from the general public and opposition councillors and agreed to a stay of execution for the 14 libraries he has earmarked for closure. Services will be maintained for another year to allow further consultation, but there is no suggestion funding will continue beyond 2012.

In a statement, Mr Davies said: “It was never my wish to close libraries in Doncaster, but we are in a very difficult position with the huge budget cuts imposed on us by Government. I have adjusted my budget proposals to allow for more consultation and agree the best way forward.”

His words were described as “positive” by Save Doncaster Libraries campaigner Lauren Smith, but she warned the closures had merely been postponed.

“They are still hell-bent on cutting library services,” she said. “There has been so little investment over recent years that they are under-resourced and de-professionalised. If you invest in these services the whole area will benefit.”

Mr Davies’s move echoes events in North Yorkshire, where plans to shut 23 of the region’s 42 libraries were this week pushed back a year in the hope more community groups will come forward to take over the threatened services. But protesters remain deeply cynical.

“I suspect they’re doing it because it will be that much harder to galvanise a second wave of protests in a year’s time,” said Shirley Gaston, who this month organised the first public protest in Pately Bridge in over a century following plans to close its local library.

In Leeds, a public consultation is still ongoing over plans for a major overhaul of library services that could see 20 of the city’s 53 outlets close. Barnsley has announced plans to close three of its 14 libraries, while reviews are now under way at five more councils across Yorkshire.

Even authorities which have not yet announced closures, such as Sheffield and North East Lincolnshire, are slashing opening hours and removing mobile services.