Valiant villagers defy cynicism and legal hurdles as they get ready to improve vital local services

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WHEN David Cameron first began to eulogise about his hopes for a Big Society, with local facilities being run by armies of willing volunteers, he was met by widespread cynicism from media and general public alike.

But as councils across Yorkshire continue to implement their sweeping cuts to local services, a number of communities are indeed rising to the challenge and working together to keep valued facilities open.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the libraries sector, where the unprecedented programme of closures is being mitigated by a valiant volunteer-led fightback.

Negotiations are now under way in North Yorkshire, Leeds and Doncaster to save a number of libraries from closure with the help of community groups. But it is Bradford where such proposals are now most advanced, with Addingham, Denholme and Wrose libraries all poised to stay open – staffed entirely by local volunteers.

“Addingham is substantially further down the line than the others,” said Adrian Naylor, a local councillor who has been leading efforts to save the library after the city council announced its closure in March.

“We now have in excess of 30 volunteers who wish to work together in the library and keep it going for the community.

“There has been a library in this village for a considerable amount of time and people did not want to lose that centre of learning.

“The fact is that it’s incredibly difficult to reopen something, once it has shut.”

The volunteers met for the first time this week to begin discussing a rota, ahead of the expected transfer of the library sometime in November.

“The main problem is that we have had no template to follow,” Coun Naylor said. “No-one has done this in this district before, and so we’ve been having to deal with the legalities, things like CRB checks and so on.”

Coun Naylor is hopeful that with the backing of the community, the volunteers can actually improve the services currently offered at the library.

“Bradford Council over the years has not invested in the library,” he said. “As a result it is only open eight hours a week.

“We want it to be open longer, and at regular times which will increase its use by local people.

“We’ve done a questionnaire of villagers to see what they want, and now we’re looking at the potential for the facility to do more – education courses, perhaps, wi-fi access; revision sessions for students.

“I’m hopeful that within a couple of months the village will have a better facility than it did before.”