Silence on future of Sheffield libraries

Grenville Wilkinson, pictured at  Walkley Library,
Grenville Wilkinson, pictured at Walkley Library,

Sheffield Council will finally reveal which of their libraries could be axed – and the identity of organisations which may take over some branches – but not until next month.

Meanwhile, the authority has refused a request from The Star under the Freedom of Information Act to confirm which of the 27 branches could be closed, and which third parties have submitted bids to run libraries.

The council plans to axe libraries due to budget cuts.

Coun Julie Dore, council leader, said: “We will launch consultation on our proposals next month. We are not starting until then because we have been criticised previously for carrying out consultation in the school holidays.”

In the council’s response to The Star’s request - arriving six weeks after the 20-day deadline the council is supposed to comply with by law - Andrew Milroy, acting head of libraries, said: “Public interest in the council being able to make difficult decisions on a sound legal basis in confidence outweighs public interest in disclosure.”

But Grenville Wilkinson, chairman of Walkley Forum, which is campaigning to save its area’s library, said: “It is not acceptable at all to keep this information behind closed doors. We asked for the same information about Walkley Library earlier in the year, and were told we would be informed in July.”

Central ward Green Party councillor Jillian Creasy said: “If the council starts to talk about voluntary or business groups taking over a public service, the source and nature of these expressions of interest should be made public.”

Coun David Baker, Lib Dem Stannington councillor, said: “Communities have a right to know which libraries are on Labour’s hit-list rather than decisions being made behind closed doors.”

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