Mayor storms out of public debate on Doncaster’s libraries

Peter Davies, Mayor of Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley D0719MC
Peter Davies, Mayor of Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley D0719MC

MAYOR Peter Davies stormed out of a public meeting to discuss the proposed closure of a Doncaster library last night after accusing political opponents of “hijacking” the event.

Over 150 people crammed into the Phoenix Theatre in Bawtry to quiz Mr Davies about plans to shut the town’s 57-year-old library in Doncaster Road.

It comes after Doncaster Council bosses announced the number of libraries in the borough could be reduced from 26 to 14 as part of drastic cost-cutting measures.

Angry residents described the library as “the heart of the community” and said closing the building would be a huge blow for villagers of all ages.

They believe Bawtry is well used compared to other Doncaster libraries and questioned the criteria system used by the council to identify which facilities should close.

Mr Davies repeatedly told the meeting he did not want to close any of the borough’s libraries - but insisted the council’s enforced £80million budget cuts meant there was no alternative.

However, he drew howls of derision from audience members after admitting he did not know where Bawtry Library was and that he had never borrowed books from Doncaster’s library service.

But the meeting descended into chaos - despite the best efforts of chair Vivian Wilcox to restore calm - after two of the mayor’s political opponents took to the floor towards the end of the 80 minute discussion.

Phil Cole, spokesman for Don Valley MP Caroline Flint, rejected Mr Davies’s claims the library cuts had received cross party support from Doncaster councillors and called the mayor “disingenuous”. Mr Cole said his wife was not at the meeting because she was attending a discussion about forests.

The pair traded insults before Unison union chief Jim Board, who the mayor refused to speak to, talked about the wider implications of jobs cuts for people across the borough.

With several people speaking at the same time, Mr Davies decided to grab his coat and walk out - accusing Mr Cole and Mr Board of hijacking the meeting as he left.

The proposals are set to be discussed by the mayor and his cabinet at a Mansion House meeting tomorrow morning before a final decision is made by full council on February 21.