A ONE year reprieve for Doncaster’s 14 libraries under threat of closure was confirmed at the 11th hour yesterday.
With Doncaster Council’s cabinet due to rubber-stamp the reduction of the borough library services on Monday, Mayor Peter Davies bowed to the weight of protest from the public and councillors by deciding to use cash reserves to fund the service for up to a further 12 months.
The controversial move was discussed in detail in the presence of protesters at yesterday’s overview and scrutiny committee, after six councillors called for the idea to be looked at again.
More than 14,000 people have signed petitions opposing the proposal to withdraw council funding for 14 branch libraries across the borough.
A review carried out last year suggested Doncaster had too many libraries and more resources should be devoted to a smaller number to improve the overall service.
But Coun Kevin Rodgers told the committee they were “cuts too far and too fast” which would affect the most vulnerable communities.
He said his ward included Scawthorpe where 60 per cent of the population have no formal qualifications and have need of a library.
“Using volunteers to man libraries is a difficult ask because of the numbers and time involved,” he said. “I also have serious doubts about the consultation process which involved less than one per cent of the borough population. It’s been rushed and we have an opportunity to have a fresh stab at this.”
Mayor Peter Davies reiterated that he did not want to make the £80 million of cuts forced on him by the Government and insisted he was a book lover, but there did need to be significant changes.
He said: “Twenty six is a high number of libraries for a borough of this size, we cannot maintain them to a standard we would like, but we will look at it twice, more carefully.”
Other councillors pleaded for more consultation and Coun Paul Coddington added: “Taking libraries away indicated Doncaster Council is disengaging from the community.”
Libraries campaigner Lauren Smith warned protesters not to “get too excited yet”.
She said: “It certainly doesn’t mean the war’s over - we need to ensure what happens next is done properly, is representative, and is based on the proper principles of public libraries.”