10,000 sign to keep Batley library

Batley History Group's Malcolm Haigh and Susan White outside Batley Library.
Batley History Group's Malcolm Haigh and Susan White outside Batley Library.

A staggering 10,000 people have signed a petition to save Batley Library, campaigner Malcolm Haigh told Batley and Spen district committee on Tuesday.

Mr Haigh spoke at the meeting after Kirklees Council’s chief librarian Carol Stump gave a presentation about the future of the library service and encouraged people to take part in its consultation.

Mrs Stump said the library service’s budget would be cut from £6m to either £3.9m or £2.5m – and that volunteers would be needed to keep library services going.

The consultation began on Monday and already more than 2000 paper forms have been submitted.

Mrs Stump suggested setting up ‘friends of’ groups could help protect services.

Mr Haigh spoke passionately in defence of keeping the library as it is – but council leader David Sheard reminded him that the consultation was not a protest exercise.

“That would defeat the point,” he said. “We are asking people what they want from the library – we don’t just want duplicate forms with the same answer for everything.”

Mr Haigh also suggested selling off a Francis Bacon painting that was presented “specifically for the benefit of the town” in order to raise funds to keep the library open. That was in 1952 when Batley had its own council.

The painting is rarely seen in public as it is worth around £30m and is too expensive to ensure.

But Coun Peter O’Neill, cabinet member for communities and leisure, told the meeting that the painting was bought by a consortium of councils and any cash raised from the sale would go back to that body and not Batley or Kirklees.