Legal fight to stop community-run libraries

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CASH is to be made available to help keep Doncaster’s new generation of volunteer-run libraries afloat, writes David Kessen.

But the amount they will receive remains undecided, after members of Doncaster Council’s ruling Labour group refused to completely back mayor Peter Davies’ budget plans.

And, in the meantime, campaigners opposed to the library cuts are trying to move forward a legal challenge according to campaigner Doug Wright.

Mr Davies had proposed making £110,000 available to meet the running costs of the 12 libraries which are being switched to being run by their communities.

But Labour has tabled an amendment which would see a £382,000 contingency fund created to provide a member of staff and a self-service machine in each of the community-led libraries, as well as re-opening Carcroft and Denaby libraries which were closed outright earlier in the year.

It was one of a number of amendments Labour leader Sandra Holland wanted to get through before her party would back the revenue budget, which pays for ongoing costs.

They also include a reduction in a planned increase in day care fees for the elderly, from 26 per cent to 10 per cent, and a grant for Citizens’ Advice Bureaus which had been day care fees for the elderly, from 26 per cent to 10 per cent, and a grant for Citizens’ Advice Bureaus which had been due to be cancelled.

Coun Holland said: “We feel very strongly about the importance of libraries in local communities, especially where children do not have access to a computer.

“We appreciate community discussions are well progressed. We want to make sure that in the future none of these are allowed to fail.”

Conservative Jonathan Wood told councillors the amendments represented only around two per cent of the entire value of the budget, and described the amendments as just minor tweaks.

“This is nothing more than tinkering at the edges,” he said.

Mayor Peter Davies said he was relieved and proud that the amount at issue through the amendments was only about £600,000.

He said he would now consider the amendments, saying the plan to reduce the rise in day care fees appealed to him.

He said: “To have gone through extensive negotiations at a difficult time to get to this position is a tribute to everyone involved.”

Meanwhile Doug Wright, a member of the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign group who attended yesterday’s budget meeting, said public interest lawyers were calling for a judicial review to stop any further unnecessary closures.

The action would partly be funded by the League Services Commission, he said, but the action would have to be part funded by the community.

Anyone who wants to donate can contact SDL treasurer John Sheppard. Email johnshep50@talktalk.net or call 07951 382 703.

He said: “SDL will be examining all potential funding avenues.”