Council backs controversial Doncaster library plan

Save Doncaster libraries campaigners protest outside the Mansion House prior to the cabinet meeting. Picture: Malcolm Billingham D4626MB
Save Doncaster libraries campaigners protest outside the Mansion House prior to the cabinet meeting. Picture: Malcolm Billingham D4626MB
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CONTROVERSIAL plans to allow almost half of Doncaster’s libraries to be run by community groups have been passed by the council.

The town’s mayor, Peter Davies, has rubber-stamped proposals for 12 of the borough’s libraries to be run by community volunteers, saving the council £1.2 million a year.

Mr Davies announced the decision at a packed cabinet meeting in the Mansion House yesterday where dozens of campaigners from the Save Doncaster Libraries turned up.

The mayor was slammed for not allowing protestors to speak at the meeting with several campaigners being asked to leave amidst shouts of “shame on you” and “this is not democracy”.

A public consultation had previously taken place, resulting in more than 7,000 responses from concerned residents.

As a result of the mayor’s decision, Bawtry, Intake and Warmsworth libraries will continue as community-led ventures within existing buildings.

From November 1 sites at Carcroft and Denaby will receive an enhanced mobile service.

Sites in Moorends, Rossington, Stainforth and Scawthorpe will, from January 1, be community-led self-service operations supported by a team of volunteers.

Libraries in Bessacarr, Edenthorpe, Sprotbrough, Balby and Wheatley will be operated in a similar community-led way along the same lines from March 1, but from different locations.

At the meeting Mr Davies said: “It’s not my policy to close any libraries in Doncaster. As a council we are faced with difficult decisions as a result of £80 million Government spending cuts.

“All 14 communities will still have a library service but it will be a different kind of library service.”

The mayor said the local authority must find £1.2 million in savings and he explained that the introduction of self-service arrangements would be similar to those used by supermarket customers.

He added: “The money is just not around and there are certain people who have no concept of public finance and have no interest in putting forward alternative ideas to deal with this.”

Protestor Gill Johnson was head of the council’s library services for six years and she criticised the cabinet’s decision.

Afterwards she said: “I am extremely disappointed. Saving Doncaster’s libraries with volunteers is not the right decision and we believe they are likely to provide problems in the medium to long term.

“The introduction of a two-tier system is against the principle of a universal service.

“Running a library is far more complex than mayor Davies would have people believe.”