Sheffield libraries could close in latest council cutbacks

Sheffield's Central Library,Surrey Street,
Sheffield's Central Library,Surrey Street,
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LIBRARY closures ‘cannot be ruled out’ as part of the next round of Sheffield Council budget cuts, the authority has revealed.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, the cabinet member responsible for community services, said savings are needed from the service’s £6 million annual budget.

The council is now reviewing the future of all 28 libraries, plus mobile and home library services, archives and the local studies library.

An eight-week public consultation has been launched, with questionnaires available at libraries and also online, asking people how they use the libraries and which services they value.

Coun Iqbal said: “We want to provide services that are up to date and affordable.

“We are assessing the local need, what services are needed and what extra services people may require in the future, too.”

The council is considering saving money by sharing library buildings with other public and commercial services and is appealing for more voluntary help.

No sites have been earmarked for closure but Coun Iqbal said: “We cannot rule out that, depending on the results of the consultation, services could be delivered differently, some developed, others changed or reduced.”

The council’s libraries have 180,000 registered users and the authority wants to hear the views of as many people as possible about the future of the service.

Officials have carried out an extensive review of library use over the last year but have refused to release the findings because they do not want to ‘prejudice’ the public consultation.

They also say they have not decided how much money should be saved from the budget.

Concerns were voiced by opposition Lib Dem leader, Coun Shaffaq Mohammed.

He said: “There are difficult choices to be made in order to reduce public spending.

“However, when the Lib Dems controlled Sheffield Council, closures were avoided. I fear this is the first step on a road that will lead to libraries shutting their doors.”

■ The questionnaire can be found either online at: www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraryreview or at any of the city’s libraries and from the mobile or home library services. The closing date for questionnaire responses is October 8.