Bulk of North Kirklees libraries saved after Cabinet report passes

Mirfield Library. (D541C429)
Mirfield Library. (D541C429)
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Library users in North Kirklees can breathe a sigh of relief after the bulk of its service was saved.

Our area’s main libraries – those in Batley, Birstall, Dewsbury, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Mirfield – will remain open and fully-staffed by professionals.

But opening times will be reduced by 40 per cent across the district. Dewsbury’s service will open for 50 hours per week; Batley, Cleckheaton and Mirfield for 35; and Birstall and Heckmondwike for 30.

Years of uncertainty over the services came to a head as Kirklees Council Cabinet members approved cost-cutting measures, aimed at slashing £1.8m from its £5.7m libraries budget, on Tuesday night.

And the budget for the next three years will be £3.9m.

Members approved proposals to continue operating 24 of the district’s 26 libraries – eight as fully-staffed “town libraries” and 16 as “community supported” by volunteers and one professional librarian.

However, there is still ambiguity about whether the services will be operated from their current locations.

The Cabinet report reads: “Due to the fact that all libraries will operate reduced opening hours, where they are currently situated will need to be reviewed.

“This cannot be done in isolation and will need to have regard to other services that will be offered in the same location.”

Across Kirklees, 88 full-time jobs will be lost with the possibility of that figure rising to more than 100, as part-time roles are taken into consideration.

The mobile service and libraries in Thornhill Lees and Lepton will close in April 2016.

The Greenwood Centre in Ravensthorpe will become community-run and open for 20 hours a week.

Plans for services to be operated solely by volunteers have been scrapped, meaning any of the 16 libraries which cannot find enough community support will face the threat of closure.

Coun Graham Turner, Kirklees Cabinet member for resources, said the proposals were designed to “preserve as much services as possible, find new and innovative ways of doing things, work closer with communities and provide as much access points as possible.”

He told the Chamber in Huddersfield: “I believe these proposals achieve these objectives but they cannot be met without the continued hard work of staff and support of volunteers and community groups.”

Around 5,000 responses had flooded in during the public consultation period, from both users and non-users, he said.

“It’s clear that our proposals will impact on the residents of Kirklees but we have, I believe, come up with a plan that impacts on residents as little as possible.

“The reality is that whilst we have a government that doesn’t believe in public services and continues to reduce our budget, we will have to make very difficult decisions and this re-configuring of the library service is one of those.

“There are yet many more to come in the next few years,” he added.