Kirklees Council considers 'nuclear option' to close all but two libraries to save money

Two options on the table but communities and businesses could take on library services to save them

Huddersfield Library & Art Gallery.

Drastic cuts could leave Kirklees with just two libraries.

Kirklees Council faces having to cut its £6.3m library budget to £2.8m by 2017 and now officers have come up with two options.

Option one will leave just Huddersfield and Dewsbury libraries, plus the home delivery service, with 100 staff losing their jobs.

 

Option two will save both main libraries, along with number of smaller community-led library hubs plus the home delivery service, with 60 fewer staff jobs.

Kirklees will need to find an extra £1.4m for option two, but it will still be a 32% cut on its current budget.

As Kirklees Council’s customer services’ assistant director Jane Brady admitted: “Option one is quite drastic and will involve a significant reduction... No decisions have been made yet so please get involved and help us shape library services.”

Kirklees Council leader Clr David Sheard said: “I believe it’s an extremely brave group that goes for the first option, but we’ll have to consider everything next March.

“To give option two a chance over the nuclear option will mean we have to find savings elsewhere. There are no magic beans, we’ll have to look at all the costs.”

The council has 26 libraries, a mobile library service, a home delivery service to housebound people and a number of services from translation for braille and audio to book clubs.

With a population of more than 425,000 and 180,000 households, Kirklees libraries have 2.2m visits each year but borrowing has reduced to 66,000, with 28,950 visits for IT purposes and 141,668 for other activities.

Mrs Brady added: “Option one is worrying, I understand that. So option two proposes town hubs, they will still need volunteers and we’ll keep the home services.

“Whatever option members consider, we would seriously have to consider the viability of the mobile service.”

Kirklees Council Assistant Director of Customer and Exchequer Services Jane Brady.
Kirklees Council Assistant Director of Customer and Exchequer Services Jane Brady.
 

During the councillors’ debate members asked about library services moving into other community buildings.

Mrs Brady replied: “Yes, we’ll consider any ideas members or the public have.

“We’ve had conversations with one school but the offer was quite restrictive, I don’t think it’s going to work universally but there may be exceptions.”

When Mrs Brady was asked what the council’s message was to people who faced paying more council tax but felt they receive fewer services, she said: “Kirklees always says that council tax is a tax, not a payment for services.

“I hope people can understand that we have a gap in our budget and the library service has been asked to make a contribution to minimise that gap.

“We’ve got two and a half years now to work with our communities to redefine how we offer library services and book lending. If people have got any ideas then I want them to know we will listen.”

She said Friends groups and asset transfers would be considered, adding: “I’d say to the public: get involved in making positive decisions for your community and help us shape this.”

After yesterday’s Policy Committee, Kirklees Cabinet will consider all options in August and put them out to public consultation. The feedback will be debated at Full Council in December with a final decision next February.

Find out the current status of your local library and whether they're at risk here.

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