Monday, 2 April 2012

Greens win reprieve for Shepley Library (Examiner article 2/4/12)

Left to right (though not in any political sense) Robert Barraclough, Ian Lumb, Derek Hardcastle, yours truly and Mehboob Khan
 OFFICIALS have given a library threatened with cuts an extra year of breathing space.

Kirklees Council plans to withdraw its paid staff from seven centres in villages around Huddersfield in March next year.

Officials want volunteers to take over the running of the libraries in Shepley, Denby Dale, Slaithwaite, Golcar, Honley, Lepton and Kirkheaton.

But Kirklees announced today that Shepley Library will be able to keep its paid staff for an extra year until March 2014.

Clare Francis, 52, who is campaigning against the loss of librarians, welcomed the news.

“I’m very pleased that we’ve got the extra time because, once a bad decision is made, it’s very difficult to undo,” said the Shepley woman.

“This way, we can continue as we are with the present good system.”

Mrs Francis believes withdrawing the two part-time librarians from Shepley would eventually lead to closure.

“Once volunteers take on the role, the library will dwindle and then it will close. The powers-that-be will blame it on the volunteers,” she said.

Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton Area Committee have agreed to provide the £24,000 needed to keep the two part-time librarians in Shepley in 2013/14.

Clr Derek Hardcastle came up with the idea.

“This funding was not allocated to any projects and I proposed to allocate these unutilised funds to the libraries budget and to specifically earmark those funds to retain a fully staffed service at Shepley Library,” said the Kirkburton Green.

“No changes to the library service are due to occur in 2012/13 so this funding would be allocated for the 2013/14 financial year.”

Clr Hardcastle hopes the extra year of funding will buy the library’s supporters some time.

“This gives us two years to plan a secure funded future for the library when the funding outlook may be more optimistic,” he said.

“Our proposal is at no additional cost to the council taxpayer and will give us the breathing space we need to produce a plan for a sustainable future for this vital and well used community facility.

“Now this funding is secured, and the Kirklees cabinet has given their backing to the Green plan, the library will now be fully staffed till March 2014.

“This does not mean that Shepley Library is saved yet, but it puts us in a stronger position to argue for its longer term retention.”

Kirklees Labour leader Clr Mehboob Khan said the cabinet would allow the extra year of funding.

“The Greens have identified area committee funding under the control of ward councillors which wasn’t being used for any other purpose,” he said.

“If this gives us all more time to agree a way forward for Shepley Library then I’m happy to recommend an additional year for a staffed service to the next appropriate full council meeting.

“This would enable us to retain the service at its current level till March 2014.”

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