A top councillor has defended his cabinet’s decision to cut library services.
Kirklees cabinet member for resources, Graham Turner, defended the Labour council’s decision to close two libraries and cease funding for 14 of the remaining 24.
The policy, which will see Kirklees libraries’ budget slashed from £5.7m to £3.9m, is being examined by a Kirklees scrutiny panel.
The panel will decide whether to return the decision to cabinet.
The cuts will lead to the closure of all six mobile libraries and the potential loss of up to 100 employees.
But Clr Turner said closing two libraries was a ‘real achievement’ considering the Government had slashed his council’s budget.
He said: “I don’t want to close libraries. I would love to enhance our libraries.
“I would love to enhance our services but we have budget restrictions from national government. We have had a huge restriction in our budget.”
The Labour member for Denby Dale added: “Closing two libraries – that’s sad. But I would challenge you to find someone who has done so much for so little.
“To close two libraries in this time of austerity is a real achievement.”
It is hoped that libraries, which will remain open but cease to receive council cash, will be run by volunteer groups.
But ‘keen library goer’ Martin Jones warned the panel of the dangers of leaving community assets to their communities.
Mr Jones said: “After the initial enthusiasm there is a repeated turnover of volunteers and the need for constant recruitment and training. I don’t feel that has been addressed.”
One protestor at the meeting accused Kirklees cabinet of failing to consider relevant factors while another accused it of making unnecessary, ideological cuts.
But members of newly-formed library volunteer groups were positive about the future of community-run libraries.
Jenny Tomlinson Walsh, from Friends of Mirfield Library, said: “We’ve made good progress and have good expectations for the future of Mirfield Library.
“Though we regret the loss of hours we understand the financial pressures behind this.”
Ms Tomlinson Walsh added: “We have an exciting future at Mirfield.”
A decision on the proposals will be made at approximately 2.30pm today (Friday).