Library closures proposals political spite says Clegg

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PLANS to close half of the libraries in Sheffield are “motivated by political spite”, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said yesterday

The plans, revealed by Sheffield Council, will see just 11 local libraries and the Central Library, out of the current 28 libraries, running.

A further five libraries, in 
Newfield Green, Woodhouse, Southey, Burngreave and Park, would become “community libraries”, at which the council would run the buildings but staffing would have to be provided by volunteers.

The remaining 11 libraries, in Ecclesfield, Jordanthorpe, Greenhill, Broomhill, Upperthorpe, Stannington, Frecheville, Gleadless, Totley, Walkley and Tinsley, would be classed as “independent libraries” and are likely to close unless volunteers come forward to take over their running.

Tinsley library, however, would not close until at least 2016 owing to “financial commitments by the council over the lease of the building.”

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said: “If no groups can be found to run these community-led or independent libraries then they are at risk of closure. However, no libraries will shut before April next year.”

Mr Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, yesterday slammed Sheffield Council for the move, and said: “I’m hugely disappointed that Sheffield’s Labour councillors have chosen to protect office refurbishments and consultants over our much-loved local libraries.

“I suspect that when they came to deciding priority Labour were motivated by political spite rather than looking at how much a particular library is used by the local community.

“I’m certain that Sheffielders will make their views known during the consultation process.”

Coun Mazher Iqbal, Labour’s cabinet member for communities, said: “He is completely 
wrong to suggest that the choice of libraries is motivated by ‘political spite’.

“If he could be bothered to read the report he would discover that the choice of 11 hub libraries was based on a series of indicators including usage, the needs of the local population and geographical distribution.”

A consultation on the proposals is set to be launched next month and will run until January.