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Sheffield libraries could all be saved

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Campaigners today gave a cautious welcome to a new council plan - which could mean all libraries in Sheffield stay open.

A funding pot of £262,000 in public health cash would be available from Sheffield Council to help volunteers run 10 facilities independently, if the proposal is agreed.

But residents who have fought to save their libraries from closure say they have fears about the challenges they may face.

Michael Davis, who is involved with the Friends of Greenhill Library, said the funding could create a ‘two-tier system’ of libraries - some council funded, others not.

“It’s a step forward but not far enough,” he said. “It’s an improvement, but it doesn’t seem a lot of money between the libraries over three years.”

Bob Mynors of Stannington and District Library Group said: “It’s still not the outcome we were hoping for, that the library remains under council management.

“But extra cash has got to be good news. If we weren’t confident we could run the library we wouldn’t have put a business plan in.”

Campaigner Gemma Short, of Walkley, said: “I think it’s good if all libraries stay open in some capacity - but it’s disappointing they are still looking to have them run by the community.”

Colin Taylor, of Save Ecclesfield Library, said councillors had ‘underestimated’ strength of feeling from residents who protested against plans to axe libraries in the wake of Government cuts.

“Thousands of people have spoken and I’m glad that’s forced the council to act,” he said. “But we need guarantees libraries will not close.”

Under the new funding plan, revealed yesterday afternoon, Broomhill, Upperthorpe, Greenhill, Tinsley, Jordanthorpe, Ecclesfield, Stannington, Frecheville, Totley, Gleadless and Walkley libraries could all ‘bid’ for cash.

The council says each library has a business plan and cash could pay for running costs such as heating or volunteer training over three years.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities, said the proposal showed the council had ‘listened’ and acted on the 7,000 respondents’ views.

“This has always been about, ‘How do we keep as many libraries open in Sheffield as we can?’,” he said. “We are now recommending this extra investment to give community groups the chance to make a success of the independent libraries they will run.”

Another 12 sites will remain open as ‘key’ libraries, and five will be community-led, receiving council funding for two years.

Around 75 library staff would lose their jobs.

Coun David Baker, Sheffield Liberal Democrats’ spokesman for libraries, pointed out libraries still remain under threat of closure.

If the plans are agreed, the council will work with community groups to finalise business plans by June.

 

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