Libraries’ futures hang in balance

Batley Library is one of 24 Kirklees libraries under threat
Batley Library is one of 24 Kirklees libraries under threat

D-Day is approaching for libraries across North Kirklees as a public consultation over their future comes to a head.

The fate of all but two libraries in the area have been uncertain since Kirklees council began taking views over how a huge cut to the library budget should impact on its services 12 months ago.

More than 5,000 people have made their feelings known ahead of a council debate on the issue next Wednesday.

The most drastic option on the table is the closure of 24 out of the 26 libraries under the local authority’s jurisdiction, with only Dewsbury and Huddersfield being spared the axe. Batley, Birstall, Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton and Mirfield are among those under threat.

An alternative would be to keep the libraries open but with a reduced service.

Hilary Wainwright, who is Treasurer of the Friends of Birstall Library group, said she hoped the service would be spared: “We’re very firmly in favour of keeping the library open,” she said. “None of us want a fragmented library service.

“There’s so many groups who meet in the library who would be affected and goodness knows what they’d do. It’s a good, safe place to be that’s condusive with having a decent public meeting.”

Coun Graham Turner, portfolio holder with cabinet responsibility for the library service, said: “This is a challenging time for local councils, with budgets from central government continuing to reduce we have to look at making changes to much loved public services. We are very pleased with the number of responses received through the library consultation. I would like to thank all those members of the public that took the time to be involved, and also our hard working staff that organised the consultation and encouraged the public to take part.”