10th November 2008
At a public Area Panel meeting on Thursday 6th November, Lib Dem Councillors for Broomhill and Nether Edge pushed through a proposal to cut library hours at Broomhill and Highfield Libraries. Both libraries will lose two hours a week of opening time. The money saved on salaries will be spent on extra books and street cleaning. Green Councillors for Central ward opposed the measure but were outvoted.
At a packed meeting, not a single member of the public spoke in favour of
cutting library hours. One Broomhill resident said that although he had
frequently “harangued” Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed, who made the proposal, about street cleaning he had also campaigned for better library services and did not want to see them cut in favour of street cleaning. Ex-councillor Jean Cromar presented a petition of over 200 signatures asking for the panel not to cut library services at Highfield Library.
Green Councillors argued that although graffiti was a problem in Central
ward, the council had already put an extra £60,000 into the service and the
Sharrow Partnership was running a successful pilot encouraging people to
report graffiti and “target hardening” street furniture. They pleaded that
even if Broomhill and Nether Edge councillors wanted a reduction in library
hours, it was not right for Central ward and that they were being prevented
from doing what was right for their constituents.
Most members of the public said they would prefer to keep things as they
were or to look at changes within the separate services. It might be
possible to juggle library opening hours or alter street cleaning schedules
without making cuts. Cllr Bernard Little made a proposal to do just this but
this was turned down by the Lib Dems on the Area Panel.
Earlier in the meeting, Deputy Leader Cllr David Baker gave a presentation
about the new Community Assemblies, explaining how they would give more choice to residents, allowing them to influence local services. He also said that the Community Assemblies would allow Councillors to respond to the needs of their own ward. The re-shuffling of £50,000 between Parks, Streetforce and Libraries was an early experiment to see how this would work. He did not stay to the second half of the meeting to see how this worked out in practice.
Cllr Creasy commented, “We opposed these cuts from the start but the Lib
Dems were determined to push them throuh. We want local people to have a greater say in how services are provided, but this meeting did the exact
opposite with Lib Dem councillors voting against the wishes of the public.
They also prevented Central ward councillors doing what was best for their
local area, despite the fact that local accountability is a key aim of the
new Community Assembly arrangements. We suspect that they wanted to be seen to making a decision under the new arrangements for Community Assemblies, which are one of the Lib Dem’s flagship projects.”
1. The Council put out a press release about the proposal to cut library
hours on 18th September (see SCC website)
2. The Greens broke ranks with their Area Panel colleagues and made their
opposition public on 1st October (see Sheffield Green Party website)
3. The Star ran a vote which showed that over 70% were in favour of
INCREASING library hours
4. The Broomhill Cllrs at the meeting were Shaffaq Mohammed, the Nether Edge
Cllrs were Pat White, Colin France and Ali Qadar. Cllr Paul Scriven was
abroad on business. The Central ward Cllrs were all present – Jillian
Creasy, Rob Murphy and Bernard Little.
5. The meeting was the public Area Panel meeting for Broomhill, Nether Edge and Central wards and took place at Endcliffe Methodist Church