Last-ditch bid to save Sheffield libraries big day arrives

Protesters' demonstration outside Sheffield Town Hall over libraries ahead of scrutiny meeting.
Protesters' demonstration outside Sheffield Town Hall over libraries ahead of scrutiny meeting.

An army of outraged residents launched a last-ditch attempt to urge Sheffield Council to re-think library cuts.

Save Sheffield Libraries - a movement which has brought together campaign groups from across the city - staged the first of two protests on the eve of decision day.

Generations young and old put on a united front outside Sheffield Town Hall ahead of the economic and environmental wellbeing scrutiny board meeting, which discussed the proposals to withdraw public funding for 16 libraries and axe 75 staff expected to be approved by the cabinet today.

Protesters armed themselves with books and staged a read-in in a bid to highlight the importance of reading and learning.

The council recently pledged £262,000 of public health funding towards maintenance costs to help libraries run independently - but the campaign says the money is not enough. Ruth Woodhouse, a campaigner for Save Sheffield Libraries, said: “There have been 24,000 signatures so far against the council’s library proposals.

“The majority of residents are against the proposals.”

Campaigners and opposition Liberal Democrats councillors have both offered fresh models which would see all libraries remain under council control but spread resources more evenly.

Ms Woodhouse said: “The model of handing over the responsibility for more than half Sheffield’s libraries to other groups remains unchanged.

“However, library users overwhelmingly prefer a different model that would leave all current libraries in council hands and share out any staff and resources available fairly across the 28 areas.

“This would ensure that ‘equality groups’ like those with disabilities, children and senior citizens would be protected.

“A comprehensive library service is a requirement of law, but we say the city council plans to sidestep this, as the proposals would leave only 12 of 27 libraries staffed and under council control, and even those left would lose some staff and hours.”

Coun David Baker, Lib Dem spokesman for libraries, said: “We know difficult decisions are necessary but local people have been clear that closing libraries is not the right way forward.

“The last few months have demonstrated a wealth of talent ready to support our libraries service. However, we need volunteers backed and supported by professionally trained staff – not threats from the Town Hall.”

Another protest is planned for today.