Bradford council washes its hands of 14 libraries after 'devastating' budget cuts

Local authority seeking groups willing to run the libraries on a volunteer basis, with the future of only 10 libraries across the district assured

Bradford council is to withdraw from running 14 libraries across its district, either putting them in the hands of community management groups or, if no bids to run them are forthcoming, close them down.

The local authority, which oversees a district with a population of more than 500,000, agreed on the proposals at its budget meeting on Thursday, along with a number of other service cuts, in a bid to make savings of £61.5m over the next two years.

According to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Cllr Martin Love said the cuts are the result of “the most devastating budget the council has ever faced”.

The budget proposal that was initially passed kept seven of Bradford’s full-time libraries safe – the recently opened facility in the city centre and libraries in Keighley, Ilkley and Bingley, Manningham, Shipley and Eccleshill.

That left 17 that the council resolved to put into the hands of community management projects, which would run them on a voluntary basis. However, Bradford’s Labour executive member in charge of libraries, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, said that a late addition to the budget proposals to raise the council tax by 3.99%, the maximum possible, has meant a rescue package for some of the threatened libraries.

In a bid to ensure two full-time libraries remained in each of the city’s four parliamentary wards, extra funding, amounting to £232,000, has been diverted into the service to allow libraries in Laisterdyke, Wibsey and Wyke to be remain fully staffed.

In addition, if volunteers can be found, two other libraries – Baildon and Clayton – will become “hybrid” libraries, partly staffed by the council but with volunteers making up the rest of the hours.

“It’s been a hard decision to make,” said Hinchcliffe. “People feel really strongly about their local library. Libraries are not just about books, they’ve become social and community hubs where librarians know their customers well. However, the scale of government cuts is so enormous that such a large network of staffed libraries is unsustainable for us. In 2020 Bradford council will be half the size it was in 2010. Inevitably, that means local people will see a real difference in the level of service local government provides. It’s very sad.”

Part of the extra funding will be used to help new community libraries with running costs, a scheme which will be extended to four such cases. And a charge will now be levied on users who wish to reserve books at libraries – though this will excluded children.

“There was some discussion about charging for other things, but it is vital that libraries are not exclusive,” Hinchcliffe said. “Especially when it comes to things such as computer usage, which is important for job-seekers, for example.”

She said that now the budget had been passed, the council would begin discussions with any groups that wanted to run the threatened libraries on a volunteer basis. “We have had some approaches,” Hinchcliffe added. “Groups have to be some kind of accountable body to be able to take on the running of a library. If no one does come forward for any of the libraries in question, then they will have to close.”

The changes will take place from the financial year beginning in April 2017.


David Barnett

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bradford puts money on libraries to boost city's health
£700,000 could be diverted from Yorkshire council’s wellbeing budget to offset library cuts

David Barnett

17, Feb, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Bradford libraries face further £2m cuts
Beleaguered service is facing fresh funding squeeze, with budget set to shrink by two-thirds and professional staff under threat

David Barnett

21, Jan, 2019 @1:59 PM

Article image
Do libraries run by volunteers check out?
Over the last decade, around 500 UK libraries have been handed over to ordinary people to run for free. This option is seen as a good alternative to closures – but how do the volunteers feel?

David Barnett

25, Jun, 2018 @2:00 PM

Article image
Libraries play crucial role in communities | Letter
Letter: The peers John Bird and Graham Tope and the MP Gill Furniss call for library funding to be put on on a long-term, sustainable footing in the forthcoming budget


23, Feb, 2020 @5:08 PM

Article image
Hands off our libraries

This Saturday sees a national day of protest against 400 planned library closures. The Isle of Wight stands to lose more than most – a staggering nine out of 11 – and resistance there is mounting

Jon Henley

03, Feb, 2011 @9:00 PM

Article image
Saving libraries in Yorkshire

Campaigners in Bradford and Leeds are considering ways of saving threatened libraries following budget cuts

Helen Carter

25, May, 2011 @3:34 PM

Article image
Liverpool libraries saved after budget boost – for now
Mayor says plans to close four of the city’s 13 libraries will be suspended after chancellor’s promise of £27m for social care

Danuta Kean

13, Mar, 2017 @2:06 PM

Article image
Cuts to community assets take grim toll | Letters
Letters: How grateful I was for all the local municipal provision that we lived with here: the parks, halls, toilets, youth centres, libraries


22, Dec, 2016 @6:18 PM

Article image
How will the cuts affect our libraries? | John Harris
John Harris: Anywhere but Westminster: Tell us your experience of how government policy is threatening the future of libraries across the country

John Harris

10, Dec, 2010 @12:00 PM

Article image
Lancashire council to close more than 20 libraries
Despite more than 7,000 responses to a recent consultation on library cuts, county council confirms more than 20 closures, with others left unstaffed

Alison Flood

31, Aug, 2016 @2:44 PM