Protest over Sheffield library closures plan

image captionMore than 250 supporters of Sheffield libraries rallied outside the Town Hall ahead of the council meeting

Campaigners have gathered in Sheffield to protest at council plans to close some of the city's libraries.

Sheffield City Council has said up to 16 libraries could shut within two years unless community groups step in to save them.

Around 250 people demonstrated outside Sheffield Town Hall ahead of a council meeting to discuss the proposals.

The council met to debate the issue after petitions of almost 6,000 signatures were handed over.

In September, the council said it planned to keep 12 of the city's 28 facilities open as "key" or "hub" libraries, and said a further five would become "community-led" libraries, receiving guaranteed council funding for two years.

The remaining 11 would become "independent" facilities, the council said.

It admitted those libraries were "likely to be closed", as research into independent libraries had shown the method was "not a long-term sustainable proposal".

Simon Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat councillor for Beauchief and Greenhill, said the council "cannot not notice this [demonstration]".

"I've been to many public meetings and the strength of feeling has come across in every one of those."

'Cut to the bone'

Julia Shergold, representing Burngreave Library said the council had to "make a decision whether to stand with the people of Sheffield and defend the service they were voted in to provide for, or carry out the cuts and austerity coming from the coalition government".

"Things have already been cut to the bone - there is very little left in Burngreave apart from the library."

She added that the protestors would keep demonstrating until the council listened.

The consultation on the library proposals ends on 10 January, with the deadline for community-run library proposals extended to 24 January.

Labour councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities and inclusion, said "devastating funding cuts" imposed by the government were responsible for the proposed closures.

The council has said it needs to slash £1.6m from its library services budget by 2016.

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