Half of Wakefield libraries at risk

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CASH-strapped Wakefield Council chiefs could close almost half of the district’s libraries in an effort to cut costs.

A total of 13 of Wakefield and district’s 26 libraries are under threat under council plans to create a “new-style, modernised service based on residents’ needs”.

The council says compulsory redundancies are likely.

The libraries under threat are Ackworth, Altofts, Crofton, Havercroft, Kettlethorpe, Kinsley, Middlestown, Outwood, South Kirkby, South Pontefract, Upton and Walton.

If councillors back the proposals, the authority will continue to run the remaining 13 “hub” libraries and a fund would be created to help other organisations, like voluntary groups, deliver “satellite” services.

The plans will be discussed at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet committee on Tuesday.

The council says under the new system, more than 90 per cent of residents in the district would be within two miles of a library.

Coun David Dagger, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said: “We have an opportunity to improve and modernise our library service, giving people the service they want, rather than the service they’ve got at the moment.

“How people use libraries has changed. New technology means that people may want to reserve and read books online, rather than visit their local library. We have to recognise that this is about providing library services, not just libraries.

“We have already spent a lot of time talking to people about libraries and what they want and it is clear that the service we currently provide is not what people want. We know that people are not satisfied with the quality of some library buildings, or with the quality and range of the books. And since 1992 more than four out of every 10 library users have stopped going into libraries.

“This all points to a pressing need to change the service so we can deliver what people want and will use.”

The council, which has to save £67m over four years, says no final decisions have been made on how library services will be provided in future.