A consultation into major cuts to Bradford’s library service has been slammed by Councillors, with one questioning if it even met equality rules.

And questions were also asked as to why the cash-strapped Council was having to pay £420,000 a year to lease one of its libraries.

Over the past week, Bradford Council has held a series of public consultation events on how it plans to slash almost £1 million from its library budget in the next year.

But at a meeting to discuss the cuts, Councillors had a long list of criticisms over the way the consultations were carried out, saying they ignored the district’s more diverse areas, that they were hastily-arranged, and that one consultation event started an hour late.

No libraries will be closed under the proposed cuts.

Changes will see libraries in Bradford city centre, Shipley and Keighley become “community hubs” that will offer a wider variety of services, and oversee work done by other libraries within those hub areas. But cuts will mean back office jobs are lost, with library resources cut. This will be followed by another £1 million of cuts in 2020/21.

Consultation events were held at libraries in Wibsey, Eccleshill, Keighley, Ilkley and Shipley.

During a sometimes heated meeting of the Council’s Regeneration and Environment Scrutiny Committee, members questioned why some areas, including Bingley and Manningham, had been ignored.

Councillor Mohammed Amran (Lab, Heaton) said: “What about Manningham Library? There seems to have been no consultation in the Bradford West area. Why haven’t you consulted with the people of Heaton, Manningham and Toller? There wasn’t anything in these inner city areas. These are very diverse communities, and it is not acceptable that they have been ignored in this consultation. You need to consult with all communities, to be honest I don’t think this meets equality standards.”

Officers nodded their heads while Cllr Amran was speaking, and he replied: “It’s no good you coming here and nodding your heads. You need to consult with all service users."

The committee was also told that Councillors had not been directly invited to the meetings – although there had been public and press notices.

Officers were quizzed on why the Shipley consultation, advertised to take place at 3pm on Saturday, did not start until 4pm. They said the issue was officer availability - as they also had to attend consultation on the museum service at the Industrial Museum in Eccleshill that had been arranged for the same time. Members seemed unimpressed with that response.

Cllr Ralph Berry (Lab, Wibsey) had been asking for a report on how cuts might hit libraries since autumn. He expressed disappointment the report had only just come to the committee - after the public consultation took place.

Phil Barker, Assistant Director of Sport and Culture, said: “We will try to do that as best we can, but we don’t want to bring you options that haven’t been fully validated.”

He said the cuts to the service in 2020/21 will be discussed with them much earlier.

The committee heard that cuts may have been even worse. A report said options were restricted due to a “significant budget pressure of circa £420,000 associated with the lease costs for City Library.”

Originally £950,000 had to be cut from the service this year. But internal council discussions had led to the lease cost being absorbed by other Council departments - leaving £530,000 to be saved from the library service this year.

Cllr David Heseltine (Cons, Bingley), said: “We still have about seven years to run on a lease where we pay over £400,000 a year. What possessed us to sign a lease like that for such a high amount for such a lengthy period of time? We knew then we were headed towards choppy waters finance wise."

Mr Barker said: “We’re already trying to come up with a solution for when the lease ends. The officers who made that original decision aren’t here tonight, and I’m not sure they are still at the Council, so I can’t speak for them. When you make decisions like this a lot of things come into play, including the regeneration of the city.”

The committee noted concerns over consultation, and the importance of reflecting the district's diversity when choosing where to run consultations.

The public consultation runs until Tuesday.

The budget cuts will be decided by the full Council next month.