Heated debate on future of Sheffield libraries

Library closure protesters, from left, David Eggington, Ruth Bradley, Mike Shaw and Rashad Mahmood pictured outside Sheffield Town Hall.
Library closure protesters, from left, David Eggington, Ruth Bradley, Mike Shaw and Rashad Mahmood pictured outside Sheffield Town Hall.

TEN thousand people who signed a petition against Sheffield library closures were told yesterday: “It’s the Government’s fault.”

Labour councillors ‘noted’ the swell of concerns but said they had no alternative but to save £1.6 million from the £6.8m library budget as part of £50m cuts in the coming year.

Library closure protester David Eggington pictured outside Sheffield Town Hall.

Library closure protester David Eggington pictured outside Sheffield Town Hall.

Fourteen of 27 community libraries are at risk of closure unless third parties run them instead.

Presenting the petition, Walkley resident and former Lib Dem councillor Diane Leek said: “I was here 20 years ago presenting a petition to save Walkley Library. A Friends group was set up and thousands of pounds raised. I am saddened to see it at risk of closure again.

“Libraries hold a valuable place in the community.”

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities, said the council ‘did not want to’ close libraries but was being forced to save money ‘because of the massive unfair cuts from the Tory-Lib Dem Government’.

He quoted from a document proposing £1.3m of annual library savings by the old Lib Dem administration - and accused them of ‘hypocrisy’.

The council has not yet revealed which city libraries could close.

Lib Dem opposite number Coun Alison Brelsford’s reply, criticising council spending on the Town Hall, provoked an uproar.

She told ruling Labour councillors: “The whole reason for closures is ideologically-driven so you can go to communities and give your rhetoric about the impact of Government cuts - while you and your friends have new carpets and fresh paint.”

Labour finance spokesman Coun Bryan Lodge accused her of telling a ‘lie’ - as money is being spent on the Town Hall to save the cost of renting other premises.

What do you think about the future of libraries? Email: letters@thestar.co.uk