Volunteers set to save libraries as new hopes for pool surface

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ANOTHER library in Leeds is set to close but three could be taken over by community groups in the city and kept open.

Senior councillors will meet next week to discuss the futures of Drighlington, Rawdon, Shadwell and Cow Close libraries.

They will also discuss transferring the running of historic Bramley Baths to a community group.

Last year plans to close thirteen libraries in the city and replace them with a mobile service were agreed by councillors but they agreed to look again at Rawdon and Cow Close. The meeting heard that replacing the 15 libraries would save the authority £625,000 a year.

In addition, Shadwell and Drighlington libraries also stayed open to allow discussions about the possibility of them being run by the community.

However members of Leeds City Council’s executive board will be told on Wednesday that no community group has come forward to take over Cow Close, however members are being urged to give the green light to the three other libraries being transferred to local groups.

A report to members of the council’s executive committee says: “The communities of Shadwell, Rawdon and Drighlington have established friends groups and have investigated the opportunities of community asset transfer.”

Members will also be asked to back a community asset transfer for Bramley Baths that shifts from the council some, but not all, of the liabilities and risks around the 1904 building and its operation.

The grade II-listed Edwardian baths are currently operating on reduced hours and their long-term future has been in doubt as the council looks to make budget cuts.

The Friends of Bramley Baths have developed a business plan that would put the pool’s management in the hands of volunteers and are seeking a 25-year lease. However members will be told if any major repairs are needed in the future, given the age of the historic swimming pool, the authority could be approached to help out.

A report prepared for the executive says: “The effect of this decision should be broadly positive for all the people of Bramley & Stanningley, particularly children, older people and those without access to a car, as it would extend the opening of a local facility. If there is no transfer, this will divert swimmers and other users to Armley, Kirkstall or Pudsey leisure centres, involving additional travel time and costs, outside the restricted core hours.

“The council and the Friends are working together to safeguard the rights of all existing staff under employment law and council policies.”

The report adds: “A transfer does have the potential for volunteer effort to extend the services and to lever in significant charitable or external funding for future building refurbishment or maintenance expenditure.”

Bramley Baths opened in 1904, was restored in 1992, and is the last survivor of eight public baths built in Leeds between 1899 and 1904.

Councillors will be told that the Friends of Rawdon Library have already been managing the library one day a week since last October, recently proposing an increase to two days a week. A report says granting a 25-year lease on the property and providing a stock of books and furniture would be beneficial to the community.

The Friends of Drighlington Library are proposing to take over the running of the service, however they do not want to take on responsibility for the whole building the service is housed in.

Councillors are also being urged to back a lease agreement for the library in Shadwell. However, they are being urged to reject a proposal to agree to transfer the freehold.

The cash-strapped authority is facing major cuts to its budget and in February it announced it needs to find £55m in savings.