SHEFFIELD Council’s worst-ever cuts have left communities worrying about the future of their libraries and organisers of city centre events such as the Tramlines Festival considering charges for the first time.
The authority has announced £30 million of cuts to services as part of £50m of overall cuts in 2013/14.
Among cuts proposed are the closure of 14 out of 27 libraries, unless community groups are willing to take them over, £1m less for parks maintenance, a £1m fund for children’s activities and closure of Stocksbridge Leisure Centre and Don Valley Stadium.
There are also increased charges for on-street parking and parking permits, higher care charges, and a cull of the council’s seven community assemblies to save £2m.
Bridget Ingle, a community activist in Wincobank, said: “It is the government which is imposing £50m of cuts on Sheffield Council, which puts them in this invidious position.
“These cuts will have catastrophic results across the city for local services.
“What the government fails to take in account in slapping this further cut on Sheffield is that, like other cities in the north, they bring in substantially less revenue through council tax when compared to the south because the property prices are lower here.
“My issue is with the government for not taking such a fundamental point into account when deciding on how much is cut from the city’s budget.”
Howard Fry, secretary of Broomhill Forum, said: “We fear Broomhill library could be a casualty because a recent plan to move to new premises has fallen through and the current building isn’t disabled-accessible.
“We will hold a meeting to discuss the impact of the cuts.
“One particular area we are concerned about is the loss of community assemblies because ours has been a useful conduit between the forum and the council.
“Also, the cuts to the parks budget will have an impact. The Friends of the Botanical Gardens will probably have to get more volunteers.”
However, one Broomhill resident said he was less concerned about changes such as a decision to increase parking permit fees from £20 to £36.
He said: “It’s something I don’t mind paying for, because it guarantees me a space on my street.”
In Stocksbridge, concerns focused on the proposed closure of the town’s leisure centre because it costs £400,000 a year to subsidise – £3 per person compared with 50p per visitor at Hillsborough Leisure Centre.
Rob Jackson said: “I was born and bred in Stocksbridge and used the centre a lot growing up. Sad it might be going.”
Darren Artley said: “It’s in need of a facelift, not closure.”
One person who declined to be named, said: “It will be far to travel to reach alternative facilities and there will also be an impact in Penistone, which has already lost its swimming pool. People from there are currently travelling to Stocksbridge.”
Meanwhile, the council is also cutting the funding it provides for city centre events.
Sarah Nulty, director of free music festival Tramlines, said: “We’ve managed to stay free for four years which is an unbelievable achievement.
“We want to keep it going and we want to keep it free, but it is getting hard.
“I think we’re all accepting that in 2013 some elements of the festival will be paid for.”