Budget: fears over cuts to Sheffield Central Library staff
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They are of the understanding that half of library and information officers and management were at risk, as well as almost all of the support staff who care for visitors and deal with building repairs.
“This means that there will be scarcely more than a skeleton staff to keep the library open, and the opportunities for visionary development work, innovation or outreach to grow visitor numbers and reach the more vulnerable audience members are severely reduced,” they said.
The council has not confirmed how many staff were affected but did say there would be changes to the numbers of staff across its library services.
Reading Sheffield also questioned whether promises would be kept to revamp the historic Grade II listed building.
“We know that Sheffield City Council’s finances are in a dire state (as are many public services), but still, choices are made at policy committees in spending and in cutting,” they said. “How does the council reconcile the crippling cuts to the library service with its promises in regard to the Surrey Street building (which, 90 years old next year, appears to be in a worse state than ever)?”
This follows a council document in September last year that stated: “The Central Library will be a destination not only for the people of Sheffield but also for visitors, providing world class reading resources, digitally enabled flexible spaces and a place where learning, exploration and creation is available to all. The opportunity will be taken…to position its redevelopment as a catalyst for the transformation of Sheffield city centre.”
Responding to concerns, councillor Richard Williams said “Sheffield City Council is planning changes to the way our library services are delivered in order to offer a better service to our customers. It is widely known that the council has some big decisions to make about how its money is spent and how it is spent on services for our communities.”
A council spokesperson added there would be changes to opening hours at council run community hub libraries. These will be extended from 31 hours per week to 34 following consultation, however this will not affect opening hours at Central Library.
More changes could be ahead as nearly 10 years since the council last reviewed library services – which saw volunteers take on 16 libraries instead of the council closing them – another review is being undertaken.
Officers said: “We are carrying out this review because, under our duty of best value, the council has to consider overall value, including economic, environmental and social, when reviewing services provision.”
It comes as the authority was left on a cliff edge after fighting to keep up with inflation, rising demand for services and having to make more than £475 million in savings over the past 13 years to offset cuts to funding.
Officers said government funding was nearly cut in half in real terms since 2010.