Sheffield library sites ‘set up to fail’

Protesters make their feelings known outside Totley Library, supported by Nick Clegg MP
Protesters make their feelings known outside Totley Library, supported by Nick Clegg MP
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Sheffield Council officers have warned libraries kept open by community groups without public funding would lack any ‘real chance’ of staying open.

In a section of a draft public document which was withdrawn before publication, officers said experience of other local authorities ‘suggests it is not sustainable for community groups to take over redundant libraries without any ongoing support from the council’.

Library service officials described council support such as covering bills as ‘essential to ensure libraries have a real chance’.

Sheffield Council’s ruling Labour group initially only wanted to provide support for community groups to run five library branches of the 16 where it was withdrawing staff.

The 11 other libraries would have had to support themselves independently.

But Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities, made a U-turn at a public meeting in Broomhill on Saturday.

He said: “We will look at how we can provide funding for the 11 independent libraries for 12 months.”

The change of heart has been welcomed by groups fighting to keep their library branches open.

Matt Kik, of Save Totley Library campaign, said: “We felt like we were being set up to fail. We have found it wouldn’t have been possible to run independently. We would have had to find £20,000 a year.”

Donna Furniss, who is part of the campaign to save Jordanthorpe library, said: “If they can find this funding now, surely they can find money to cover the staff.”

Sheffield Council said a series of workshops will begin today to help interested groups.

Coun Mazher Iqbal said: “We want to keep as many libraries open as possible.”

■ Sessions are on November 13, 18 and 25. Email libraries@sheffield.gov.uk to attend.