Sheffield library disposal decision to go under further scrutiny

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The approved disposal of a Sheffield library to a restaurant group has been called in for further scrutiny.

Walkley Library has been run by volunteers from Walkley Carnegie Library Group since last September, after the council relinquished control of 15 facilities to save money.

The library was the only one in the city where two rival business plans submitted, but both sides have united with a new plan of sharing the site as a restaurant or cafe as well as a library.

Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore has now agreed the disposal of the Grade II listed building to Forum Cafe Bars, subject to part being leased back to the council so the volunteers can continue to run the library.

However a Labour colleague has called the decision in for more scrutiny - which means it is likely to go before a committee for debate at the end of this month.

It is more unusual for councillors from the same party, rather than the opposition, to take the step of calling in such a decision.

It is understood that the call in was made by Walkley councillor Ben Curran - also cabinet member for finance - in a bid for more transparency around the process.

Hundreds of people have signed a petition, launched by the Friends of Walkley Library Group, to postpone the sale of the library until the community has the chance to consider alternatives as they do not agree with the historic site falling into private hands.

If the sale to the Forum did go ahead and plans were approved, £500,000 will be spent on rennovating and improving the building. Up to 35 jobs would also be created.

The committee of volunteers has said it believes the partnership is the most ‘practical’ method of retaining the library.

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