‘Wrong priorities’ as Clegg urges cuts elsewhere

Nick Clegg and Coun David Baker at Stannington Library
Nick Clegg and Coun David Baker at Stannington Library
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SAVINGS from shutting libraries could be as little as £370,000 over the coming year - less than a quarter of the £1.6 million initially predicted.

The figures are revealed in an internal council budget monitoring report, resulting in criticism of the council’s approach from Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg has backed a petition against closures, organised by Sheffield Liberal Democrat councillors and which has already been signed by 2,500 people.

He has called on Sheffield Council to make savings over the coming year from other areas.

Mr Clegg urged the council to consider cutting the £500,000 annual cost of 17 full-time trade union officials, and spending on consultants, which has totalled £4.7m in the last 12 months including one person on £800 per day.

“Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is of a similar size to the council but has only one full-time union official,” he said.

“There is also the £2.2m Town Hall refurbishment and £490,000 being spent on new bus lane signs.”

Mr Clegg said: “Labour seem to have the wrong priorities. My constituents are angry and I am angry on their behalf.

“I recently visited constituents at Stannington library, one of several in my constituency, and know what a valuable service it provides.

“I see Labour’s leader on Sheffield Council campaigning for fairness, then spending money on union officials rather than libraries.”

Reducing spending on libraries will save far less than originally predicted because it is not likely to be until the summer before officials decide which branches could be taken over by other organisations.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council cabinet member for finance, said: “Our approach on libraries is part of a two-year plan which should make the full savings the next year.

“We are looking at reducing spending in areas such as full-time trade union officials where we are consulting on going from 17 to nine, to save £200,000.

“Most of the Town Hall investment is going on repairs to a Grade I listed building, partly to stop pieces of masonry falling off.

“Refurbishment of meeting rooms will save money on the costs of hiring other accommodation.”

■ To sign the petition to save libraries visit Sheffield Libraries

Link to related article: Local groups considering bids to run Sheffield libraries