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‘Set up to fail’ - Sheffield library lease fears weeks before takeover

Campaigners and protesters against proposed library closures gather outside Sheffield Town Hall.

Campaigners and protesters against proposed library closures gather outside Sheffield Town Hall.

  • by Ellen Beardmore
 

Concerns have been raised that volunteer groups set to take over Sheffield libraries in exactly one month’s time were being ‘set up to fail’.

Campaigners who have worked tirelessly to save local facilities from closure were presented with three-year leases, which meant they would not have been able to secure external funds, rather than longer ones they expected.

The Town Hall chief responsible for libraries insists leases will be ‘tailored’ to meet group needs.

Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote to the council to raise fears libraries were being made ‘unviable’.

Mr Clegg wrote: “Rather than making unnecessary and unhelpful changes to the terms being offered, we should all be working together and ‘bending over backwards’ to help community groups keep these valuable facilities open.

“As it stands our community libraries are at risk of being set up to fail.”

It was also stressed a ‘huge debt of gratitude’ was owed to groups which stepped forward after the council relinquished control of libraries.

Campaigners said they had been potentially facing a ‘difficult’ situation.

But The Star understands the council has now responded to a joint request from associate libraries with lease alterations.

Coun Iqbal, cabinet member for communities and public health, said the three-year figure was because funding the council is providing lasts for that time.

He told The Star: “If they want a lease for five years or 20 we will give them that.

“Negotiations are ongoing with each group, tailoring it to their needs.

“There was one which wanted a 25-year lease because they went for funding, that is something we can do.

“The most important thing is making it as easy as possible for groups.”

 

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