A campaigner has started a mission to save libraries in Bradford from the “cull” of Council cuts.
Stephen Wilkinson, 23, has collected almost 400 signatures through on his online appeal started in response to Bradford Council review of the district’s library services.
He said: “The Council is proposing cuts to libraries and basically I just thought nobody was doing anything about it. Nobody was really defending it on a mass scale.”
Mr Wilkinson, who works for a travel company in Leeds, hopes to replicate the success of the campaign to save Bradford’s National Media Museum last summer. “I use the city centre library quite regularly and my local one in Clayton,” he said.
He set his petition up just over a week ago and has been pleased with public reaction.
He said: “I’ve had quite a positive response so far, nearly 400 signatures, but I’m hoping to get a lot more before I hand it in to the Council.
“I’ve had some authors contact me on Twitter, local ones and ones from further afield.”
The petition calls for Bradford Council to “stop the culling of the city’s library services – local, mobile and housebound – and continue to provide a Council- staffed and run service.”
It goes on to say: “People from all ages and backgrounds use the service and it is a disgrace that the Council can cut this.
“The Government says it is keen on improving education of young people but still allows Councils, like Bradford, to destroy the library service.”
Mr Wilkinson is concerned that some libraries will be cut to the point where a single shelf of books in a church takes the place of a community facility.
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, the Council’s executive member for culture, said: “In Bradford we have 30 libraries and, unlike other local authorities, we've managed to keep them all open except one.
“This is during a period of extraordinary cuts from national Government.
“The way we’ve managed to do this is by working with communities in Denholme, Addingham, Wrose and Wilsden who now run their own libraries and I’m grateful for their support in doing this.
“They are not left on their own but they are supported by professional library staff.
“With cuts from central Government of £115 million over the next three years and George Osborne announcing he’s not going to stop there, then we have to make sure that our library service can withstand further central Government cuts – hence the consultation.” A Council-run survey is now being used to start to identify other communities which might support such schemes.
The Council has already ‘co-located’ four libraries – including East Bowling into Bolling Hall Museum – which Coun Hinchcliffe said had resulted in moves to refurbished premises.
Two more libraries are at an advanced planning stage and the Council is looking to relocate two more to meet its budget.
Coun Hinchcliffe said. “In an ideal world I’d like not to have to make these changes.
“Libraries are important social hubs and should be financed accordingly.
“But when the Government slashes Bradford's budget by £215 million over six years then that's simply not enough to pay for the level of public services we have been used to.”
Mr Wilkinson’s petition is at you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-bradford-libraries.