LIBRARIES in Kirklees are some of the most expensive in the country to run.
In a report of 15 comparable local authorities, Kirklees libraries emerged as the costliest per head of population.
And it will still remain expensive even after cost-cutting measures are implemented.
Council officials have vowed to look at ways of cutting costs.
In 2011/12, the council spent £21.45 per resident on libraries, compared with an average of £16.47. Other local authorities in the group included Calderdale, Bradford, Wakefield, Rochdale, Bolton, Bury and Wigan.
Kirklees was the largest authority in the group with 423,000 residents in 2011 and had the greatest number of libraries at 32. All costs were calculated per head of population.
However, instead of making economies of scale, it appears that Kirklees spent more without necessarily reaping any benefits. Even after proposed cuts in 2012/13, Kirklees will still be running the most expensive libraries, costing an estimated £18.50 per head, compared with an average of £15.13.
Statistics indicate that other councils are running their library services more efficiently, with lower staffing and transport costs, more unpaid help from volunteers and individual books being borrowed more frequently than in Kirklees.
The information has been published in the statistics from Comparative Profile for Public Library Services. CIPFA is the only accountancy service specialising in the public sector and the report stresses that its findings are entirely independent and unbiased.
Other statistics for Kirklees include:
The council employs 50 employees per 100,000 people, compared with an average of less than 33. While local library staffing costs rose between 2010 and 2011, they fell in other local authorities.
Kirklees’ staff costs are the highest in the group at nearly £12 per resident (the average is £8.62). However, their workload is in the lower half of the table.
Transport costs are almost four times the average at £6.28 per resident, compared with £1.65, and support costs are almost double the norm.
Kirklees has the lowest number of volunteer hours and each volunteer works less than 7.5 hours a year, compared with the average 49 hours.
The council’s libraries have the lowest stock turn, which is the average number of times each book was loaned during the year.
Kirklees libraries also have the lowest number of electronic workstations and one of the least popular websites.
The report states: "It (Kirklees Council) should compare its costs to other authorities to see if there are any ways it could learn from their approaches.
"One well-publicised approach that library authorities are taking is using volunteers. Kirklees had 0.4% of ‘worked hours’ provided by volunteers in 2011-12 compared with an average of 2.2%."
Positive factors in the CIPFA report were that Kirklees has an average number of borrowers and revenue income, it has six mobile libraries, the lowest computing costs and the highest number of service points, reference and adult fiction books – and users are relatively happy with the service.
Clr Shabir Pandor, Kirklees Cabinet member for resources, said: "I am aware of the information provide by CIPFA and, as part of the review of all libraries, every cost and element within the service will be closely scrutinised.
"We will do this with a view to providing value for money for local people while making sure that all residents in Kirklees receive a modern and efficient library service."
A council spokesman added: "The number of libraries we have in Kirklees has not changed for some time and our library service continues to be popular. We attract high levels of visitors to our libraries when compared to the other local authorities.
"It is particularly important to view all of the figures in this report in the correct context. However, as with all benchmarking information, we will use this to support our development of future library service provision.
"We have been looking at a range of options to reduce the cost of libraries and we remain committed to offering high standards."
A controversial proposal by Kirklees Council last year to withdraw librarians from Golcar, Lepton, Shepley, Honley, Denby Dale and Kirkheaton led to more than 8,000 people signing a petition against such a move.
After people expressed deep concerns about actually taking over running the libraries as volunteers the plan was shelved.
A LEADING campaigner has criticised Kirklees for its short-sighted policies on library services.
Biddy Fisher, former president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) believes the council needs to implement measures now to secure the future of the district’s 26 static and six mobile libraries.
She has called on Kirklees to get together with other local authorities to pool resources, share services and save costs.
She has also appealed for more volunteers to come forward to help professional librarians, but says it is imperative that they are given specific tasks and are properly managed.
Mrs Fisher, a member of FODDL (Friends of Denby Dale Library), said: “Kirklees is not looking into the future when library costs will rise. I cannot help but think the stance they are taking is not going to last beyond the next local elections.
“It is disappointing that the management is not looking at shared services with neighbouring local authorities which would ultimately bring down costs.”
She recently met with Clr Shabir Pandoor, Kirklees Cabinet member for resources and Kirklees exchequer and customer services officer David Thompson where she asked them to look at the use of volunteers to assist library staff.
Mrs Fisher said: “There are not enough volunteers in Kirklees. I am not trying to eliminate professional staff – the volunteers should assist the work of the paid staff.
“The issue for volunteers is that they have to be effectively and professionally managed. It is no good people volunteering if they are not professionally managed.
“Our stance is to ensure there are professional staff leading the development of Kirklees libraries, not taking it down a path of atrophy.”
She added that Yorkshire Sculpture Park was a “shining example” of how to use volunteers well. Each individual receives training and signs a contract with the park.