Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies today apologised to library users as plans to cut funding to 14 public libraries in the town were approved by his ruling cabinet.
Earlier each cabinet member in turn gave speeches explaining how difficult they had found the decision, which will see 14 of the town’s 26 libraries lose their council funding.
But the controversial move was still given the green light this morning.
Following the unanimous decision, Mr Davies told members of the public at the meeting: “I again apologise to you all that it has come to this. It was not my doing.”
He also pledged that none of the 12 remaining libraries unaffected by these cuts will be closed while he remains in office.
But campaigners outside the Mansion House, collecting signatures for a petition which so far boasts 14,000 names, said it was wrong to consider libraries as an item on a balance sheet.
John Sheppard, 59, said: “The people on the street are so angry they are queuing up to sign the petition. They are tearing the heart out of our communities.”
Inside, Mr Davies told the meeting that the decision had been forced on the council by central government cuts and that front line services could not escape such a severe drop in funding unscathed.
The mayor explained: “When I was faced with getting rid of £30 million in cuts, one of the first options pointed out to me was to close an old people’s home. I said no, find something else.”
He said the council had “done its level best” to protect front line services, and cabinet members stressed that the 14 affected libraries – in Stainforth, Sprotbrough, Scawthorpe, Wheatley, Denaby, Rossington, Edenthorpe, Carcroft, Moorends, Warmsworth, Bawtry, Bessacarr, Balby and Intake – will not necessarily close.
Instead, the council is to begin fresh consultation to find “alternative provision” so that some form of library service remains available in these areas.
Options being looked at include libraries run by volunteers, libraries which are privately funded and increased use of mobile libraries and so-called “virtual libraries”, where books are distributed by post.
But Mr Sheppard said: “The issue of community libraries is an absolute misnomer. Some parts of the country are already trying this and it takes 50 to 60 volunteers plus management to run one. It can only work in an affluent area because you are relying on donations. There’s no way that somewhere like Rossington could support a community library.”
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