Wakefield: Dozen libraries face final chapter

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Almost half of Wakefield district’s 26 libraries look set to be axed unless community groups step in to take them over.

Council chiefs are seeking to save £800,000 a year by off-loading 12 libraries to voluntary organisations in the biggest shake-up of the service for 30 years.

Between 15 and 21 library staff will be affected, with the equivalent of six full-time jobs set to go.

As of yesterday, (July 18) just four community groups had expressed an interest in taking over one of the dozen libraries at risk of closure.

The libraries will close before March 2013 unless viable alternatives for running them are lodged with the council by October 31 this year.

Libraries under threat are Ackworth, Altofts, Balne Lane Community Centre at Wakefield, Havercroft, Kinsley, Kettlethorpe, Middlestown, Outwood, South Kirkby, South Pontefract, Upton and Walton.

The 14 libraries to remain under council control are Wakefield One, Horbury, Ossett, Sandal, Stanley, Castleford Forum, Airedale, Feathersone, Knottingley, Normanton, Pontefract, Hemsworth, South Elmsall and Crofton.

The council says it will invest £1m to improve the mobile library service and the 14 libraries it continues to operate.

Groups wanting to run their own library can apply for a share of £100,000 of council cash to help kick start projects.

Council chiefs say communities are in favour of proposals to modernise library services after the authority carried out extensive consultations via focus groups and surveys.

Lisa Dodd, the council’s service director for culture and sport, said just 14.5 per cent of residents were regular users.

She added: “We will be saving money as well as providing a better service.”

Wakefield Council’s cabinet committee is set to approve the proposals when it meets on Tuesday, July 31.