Doncaster’s libraries will close as pleas for re-think thrown out

Bessacarr Library, one of those to close as part of the shake-up of libraries in the borough
Bessacarr Library, one of those to close as part of the shake-up of libraries in the borough

CAMPAIGNERS accused Doncaster’s mayor of a one-man crusade as the axe fell on 14 of the borough’s 26 libraries.

Following approval by Doncaster Council’s cabinet, the doors are to close with almost immediate effect at sites in Denaby and Carcroft, where services will be replaced by mobile and outreach provision only.

Twelve other libraries are expected to become community-led services in a variety of venues between now and March, in a bid by the council to shave £784,000 from its budget. The closures, which were re-affirmed yesterday, come after months of wrangling between the council and campaigners, who say communities will be damaged by the move.

The council has argued the current £5.26 million running costs of all 26 libraries is unsustainable and that it needs to focus on resourcing and upgrading a core network of 12.

Speaking outside yesterday’s meeting, protestors said they had been silenced by its chair, Peter Davies, who had told then they would not be allowed to speak.

One, Gill Johnson, the former head of Doncaster’s library service, said: “We believe the whole closure consultation process has been flawed and whole communities will be damaged.

“There has been a distinct lack of transparency and it’s a scandal that everything can be done at the whim of one person.

“We don’t see how communities can be expected to fund their own local libraries on top of paying for the council run ones.”

She said the campaigners were in consultation with two legal firms to see what their options were, but said the cost of pursuing an injunction against the council, as had happened in Brent and Gloucestershire, was cost prohibitive.

Recommending the closures to the cabinet, Mr Davies said that comprehensive consultation had been carried out, and while he had constantly asked the campaigners for alternatives he had not received anything from them.

“The number of active protestors on this issue have been minimal. No-one has approached me in the street and told me I’m doing a bad thing here,” he said.

“No-one wants to close libraries and we have been doing our level best to keep them open up until now...but the sad truth is that the majority of our population do not use libraries.” Yesterday’s cabinet had to re-discuss the proposals after a watchdog committee of councillors called in a previous decision to press ahead with the closures.

However, despite pressure from opponents the cabinet did not back down.

It was reported to the meeting that public response to questionnaires in Denaby had been just five per cent. Carcroft and Denaby libraries are expected to close next week, followed quickly by Bessacarr, Rossington, Intake and Moorends, then Balby, Warmsworth, Stainforth and Scawsby on January 1; and Bawtry, Edenthorpe, Sprotbrough and Wheatley on March 1.