Help for Sheffield library bids

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GROUPS interested in taking over Sheffield’s libraries could be offered help to cover running costs, the councillor in charge has pledged.

Up to 14 of 27 libraries could close under £50 million of council budget cuts unless other organisations can be found to run them.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities, revealed that ‘numerous’ community, voluntary and faith groups, as well as businesses have come forward.

He said: “We only issued our prospectus on libraries last Monday and are really pleased with interest so far.

“Although financial information is not in the document, we will be making it available to interested parties and could offer support to help cover running costs.

“We want to work with charities, community groups and organisations.”

Coun Iqbal added: “It is hypocritical of Nick Clegg to be launching a campaign to save libraries when it is because of his Government’s policies that we are having to consider the future of the service in Sheffield.”

Coun Iqbal said agreements for third parties to run libraries could work like a ‘franchise’ system.

He added that the council aims to expand services offered at libraries to include advice services and new technology to attract more users and make sites more viable.

Interested groups can make bids to run libraries over the next two months - and must send an expression of interest form. Organisations can then meet with council officers.

■ Visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries/library-review/prospectus.html to find out more about bidding.