Campaigners have accused Sheffield’s ruling Labour councillors of putting politics before communities when deciding which libraries should be axed.
Concern has been expressed that the south and west of Sheffield has been targeted disproportionately for closure of 16 branches – because the areas have more Liberal Democrat councillors.
Two of the 11 libraries to be retained are in the south or west, at Ecclesall and Woodseats. The council will only pay the bills at five more branches so volunteers could keep them open. It would cost £140,000 to cover running costs at the other 11 sites.
The Star understands decisions on which libraries are closed are being left to councillors – with some officials within the council feeling the policy is ‘not worth the grief’ for the small amount of savings.
Donna Furniss, who is among campaigners battling to save Jordanthorpe Library, which is one of those the council could axe, said: “I have noticed that most of the libraries being saved seem to be on the other side of Sheffield.
“It’s highly unfair for the council to expect people from a huge area to travel to just one branch.
“The branches being kept open should be spread more evenly – and it would surely not take much to find £140,000 so volunteers could afford to run other branches.”
She added: “It seems mean spirited and petty to decide based on the way people vote.
“Surely there are better ways to score political points than hurting communities?”
Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “It would seem that Labour has targeted its closures out of political spite towards areas which vote Liberal Democrat rather than Labour.”
Protests against closures have taken place at suburbs including Broomhill and there is one outside Central Library at noon today.
But Sheffield Council leader Coun Harry Harpham rejected criticism.
He said: “Nick Clegg’s suggestion is ludicrous.”