Libraries row to fore as council sets new budget

News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.
News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

The controversy over the threat to Sheffield libraries will be reignited tomorrow (Friday) when the council formally approves its spending plans for the next year.

Opposition Liberal Democrats will press for all libraries to be kept open as the authority confirms a £451m budget that is based on a fourth successive freeze in council tax.

The annual debate will see the ruling Labour group defend its overall spending in the face of severe Government cuts, and insist that its strategy of aiming to place some branch libraries in community hands is the most practical way of trying to avoid closures. Its majority will ensure it wins any vote.

Lib Dem finance spokesman Andrew Sangar said nobody denied the need for difficult decisions, “but more than two-thirds of this year’s budget gap has been created by the council’s own spending plans as opposed to national cutbacks. Millions have been wasted on pet projects and high paid consultants – not to mention the £31m of uncollected council tax. We’ve shown that by making some sensible savings and doing things differently, libraries can be kept open and important services can be protected.”

Labour says it has had to find a further £58m this year, pushing total government cuts to Sheffield to £238m. The budget involves a cut of 644 posts.