A councillor has accused Kirklees Council of “betraying the trust” of volunteers who stepped forward to help save their local library.

Clr Charles Greaves (Ind, Holme Valley North) was speaking after Kirklees Council announced it wanted to hand over the management of eight smaller libraries to the local community.

The cash-strapped council needs to save money and while it’s not proposing to close any of its 24 libraries, it wants to turn eight into “community managed libraries.”

The eight chosen are: Meltham, Honley, Kirkheaton, Marsden, Skelmanthorpe, Denby Dale, Shepley and Mirfield.

These all have strong ‘Friends of’ groups and teams of volunteers and the council says the move would save £912,000 in 2025-26 if community groups can be found to take them on.

In previous years when the Library Service came under pressure to cut staff, dozens of volunteers signed up to help fill the void. There are now 400 volunteers working in libraries across Kirklees.

While the community libraries would be independently-run, they would still have access to the council’s stock of books and have “some management support.”

Clr Greaves, whose ward includes Meltham and Honley, condemned the council’s plans and said: “It is a betrayal of the trust that volunteers placed in Kirklees when they stepped forward to help.

“I’m angry that Kirklees is now looking to abandon the eight libraries where the community has previously stepped forward.

“The focus should be on reducing the costs of the main libraries and in encouraging the community to come forward to support all of the libraries – not just the village ones.”

Clr Greaves said the Meltham and Honley libraries were already community supported and depended on volunteers to remain open.

Meltham Library is housed within The Carlile Institute, which was handed over by Kirklees under an asset transfer in 2013, while the Honley Library building was taken on by Holme Valley Parish Council in 2022.

Clr Greaves said the building costs of both libraries was “cheap by Kirklees standards” as they were covered by the town and parish councils.

He added: “Besides the stock and IT, the major contribution Kirklees currently makes is for one part-time role at each library, but that role is essential to ensure the regular running of the library and to keep them connected to the main library service.

“Both communities made it very clear that they were not interested in community managed libraries when they agreed to support them and that was set in stone.

“Kirklees is now back-tracking on that commitment to try to make an easy saving and it feels like a betrayal of all the effort that the community and the library volunteers have put in.

“Who will trust Kirklees to step forward when you are then punished for doing so? This is just another example of the villages losing what little they have to the towns.”

Mayor of Meltham and town councillor Richard Noon (above) said he was “deeply frustrated” at the move and added: “Kirklees are reneging on the agreement to provide a volunteer supported library, and moving to a ‘community managed’ service level.

“I have been involved with negotiations with Kirklees Council for the last 10 years. I have always been a supporter of retaining a quality library function within The Carlile Institute.

“Whilst the volunteers do a fantastic job, having the support and guidance of the paid Kirklees staff is really important.

“Because of its location within the Post Office, Meltham Library has the longest opening hours and the volunteers provide activities for families and young people to encourage reading and digital literacy, social inclusion and access to council services which have previously been removed from Meltham.

“Kirklees do not contribute anything financially to Meltham Library; it is hosted by The Carlile Institute at no charge to Kirklees Council.

“Other libraries incur ongoing capital and revenue costs. We must be one of the best libraries for delivering value for money. The least that Kirklees Council can do is provide some sort of staffing provision.

“As a community we have upheld our side of the agreement since 2016. To see Kirklees walking away is really saddening, but not surprising. These changes to library service provision are just another example where we continue to be ignored and brushed to one side.”

The proposals to move forward with ‘community managed libraries’ are set to be approved by Kirklees Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday February 20.

Pam Murgatroyd, chair of the Friends of Meltham Library, which has a group of 25 volunteers, said she wanted to await the outcome of that meeting and further talks with the council before commenting in detail.

However, she added: “I am confident that whatever the outcome of these talks and future plans for Kirklees Libraries, the library volunteers at Meltham, with the help of the Town Council, will do all in their power to ensure there will always be a library in Meltham to support the local community.”