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"Savage" Cuts To Bradford's Libraries Scrapped

Over 3,300 people from across the district responded to a public consultation.

Cuts to library services will not be as savage as originally thought after Bradford Council decided to use £700,000 of public health money to prop up the service.

As part of budget cuts, Bradford Council was due to reduce the district’s library budget by £1.05 million in the coming year.

Although the Council said it was aiming to keep all its libraries open, the decision proved hugely controversial, and led to numerous strikes by staff and public outcry.

But in its latest budget announcement the Council revealed it would be moving £700,000 from its public health budget to the library service. Officers argued that libraries provided vital public health services such as preventing loneliness.

It means that the actual cost of the cuts will fall from £1.05m to £350,000.

Although the future of the service will not be revealed until March,, officers told a Council committee that the ongoing extra money would make the library service more financially secure in the future.

Members of the Regeneration and Environment Scrutiny Committee were given an update on the library service on Thursday evening.

They were also told the results of a public consultation into the library cuts – which ended just before Christmas.

Over 3,300 people from across the district responded to the survey – members were told.

David Greenwood gave a presentation on the results of the survey.

He told members that early into the survey around 77 per cent of the respondents were white women. But as the consultation period went on, there was a better spread of responses, across all age ranges and ethnic backgrounds. Mr Greenwood said: “This is the first time we’ve had such a comprehensive response, there are few if any gaps.”

Phil Barker, assistant director for sport and culture, said: “As well as the £700,000 we are having other conversations about ways of bringing more funding in, which we will continue to pursue in the coming weeks.

“We are talking with partners to develop options for the future of our libraries.

“By the end of March we should have a robust plan for what the libraries service will be going forward.”

He said the public health money, which was recurring funding, would allow the libraries to maintain services it currently offers, rather than being ring fenced for specialist services. He added: “It will create a library service that will help the health and wellbeing agenda – but it will not all be used to fund new activity.”

A public consultation into any changes would take place before the Council moves forward – the committee was told.

Referring to the high level of responses to the initial consultation, Councillor David Heseltine (Cons, Bingley) said: “Those responses show how much people in the district value public libraries.”

He referred to the huge rent cost of City Library – which costs the Council £450,000 a year. He was re-assured that this money was not being taken from the libraries budget – and this would continue to be the case in future years.

Councillor Riaz Ahmed (Lib Dem, Bradford Moor) said: “We were told there was no more money, they there was a public outcry and now we have this money. If there is more public outcry could we get more money from somewhere else?”

Mr Barker said: “The library service is an important one and a lot of people made representations. This new investment is a testament to all the people who lobbied.

“We are carrying on conversations that began some months ago and it may be that these lead to further proposals that could lead to more funding.”

Officers were asked to bring a report on the future of the library service to the Committee’s meeting on March 4.

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