5:34am Thursday 28th January 2016
By David Knights
A COUNCIL offer to subsidise a proposed community-run library in Silsden has received a mixed response from local politicians.
Cllr Adrian Naylor has welcomed Bradford’s latest proposal to save the library but fellow Craven ward councillor Andrew Mallinson has called for more details.
The councillors spoke as Bradford Council held a consultation meeting in Keighley last week last week to reveal details of its controversial plans for libraries across the area.
As part of multi-million-pound spending cuts, the council has announced that 17 libraries in villages including Silsden will shut next year unless local residents come forward to take over responsibility.
Bradford Council’s principal libraries officer Jackie Kitwood said 70 per cent of the service’s £3.2 million annual budget was spent on wages and it was hoped the proposed changes would save £291,000 from the bill for the financial year 2017-18, when any changes would take place.
If full council votes on February 25 to just keep seven major libraries under its control and lose the rest, intense negotiations will begin with people keen to start Community Managed Libraries.
CMLs would be given the buildings, such as those in Silsden, Baildon, Menston and Burley, along with the books, computers and contents at peppercorn rents.
There would be support with recruitment and training of volunteers, 100 per cent of utility costs and rates would be paid, plus funding for activities, events and approved repairs.
CMLs would have to be properly accountable, open for agreed times, kept clean and tidy and support the national literacy and learning schemes. They must take out public liability insurance for volunteers.
District and Silsden town councillor Adrian Naylor said: “There will be virtually no cost running a library because of what Bradford has offered. It’s a saving on staff, which is the bulk of their current budget.
“For the people of Silsden the only costs would be indemnity insurance. They’d be hard-pressed to spend more than a few hundred pounds each year running a community library.”
District councillor Andrew Mallinson told the meeting he was concerned on behalf of Silsden Library by a lack of detailed figures and costing.
He said the timing was rushed, denying town and parish councils time to plan options before full council decides next month.
During the meeting, Bradford Council education and culture portfolio holder Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe described libraries as “the emotional hearts of communities”.
She added: “These proposals are very sad and none of us really want to take this step.
“But we’ve hung on for as long as we can. I want to keep the library service, but it will have to change.”