CAMPAIGNERS have lost the latest round in a battle to save 14 Doncaster branch libraries from the axe - but say they will not give up the fight, writes Russ Newton.
They are seeking legal action against yesterday’s Doncaster Council Cabinet decision to go ahead with the library service review which could see more than half of the borough’s libraries close or be handed over to their communities so local people can run them.
Mayor Peter Davies told the 20-odd people who attended the Cabinet meeting he had no choice, and said their protests should be directed at national politicians for the difficult decision forced on him by public spending cuts.
He said he was faced with cutting spending by £30 million over the next year and refused to close an old people’s home or cut care services.
“My manifesto commitment was to keep all essential services running and I remain committed to that,” he said. “We are doing our level best to retain all these services.”
Mr Davies said he took no pleasure in closing libraries and was still prepared to listen to alternative cost-cutting suggestions from the public.
He stressed: “No-one in the Cabinet has said we are closing 14 libraries. What we have said is we cannot afford to keep 26 libraries and we will seek to keep open 14 libraries by smarter means. I do not personally want to see a library closed.”
He proposed further consultations to consider alternative ways of community groups or schools running the 14 under threat, with the council continuing to provide guidance and stock. He also praised for their commitment the people who have gathered a 14,000 name protest petition.
Mr Davies concluded with a pledge that none of the remaining libraries would close while he remains as mayor.
But his hope that communities will take over some or all of the 14 threatened libraries was not well received by the campaigners at the Mansion House.
Armthorpe man John Sheppard said: “Community libraries are a misnomer. Research shows it takes 10 management people and 60 volunteers to run a library and that is only in the more affluent areas where people have the time.
“There is no way some of our communities, Rossington for example, can support a community library. They are not a viable option.”
The Save Doncaster Libraries campaign group is planning more protests outside threatened libraries today.
Spokesman Lauren Smith said: “Cabinet has approved the proposals to drastically cut library services, despite overwhelming public opposition to the scale and delivery of the cuts, which we believe are in breach of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. We now demand the Department for Culture, Media and Sport conduct an inquiry into these closures and cuts.
“Despite SDL presenting the council with a petition containing over 14,000 signatures, the council has refused to give the public a full debate. We believe this is in breach of the democratic process and will be complaining to the local government ombudsman.”
Opera star Lesley Garrett has also added her support to the campaign, telling radio listeners she “virtually lived in” Thorne library when she was a girl and it had been very important to her upbringing.