Kirklees Council is planning a massive shake-up of its library service which will save almost £2 million – and cost 47 jobs.

The council currently runs 24 libraries across the district and while none are earmarked for closure the council wants to hand over management of eight of them to community groups.

Many of the smaller libraries already rely heavily on volunteers while being run by Kirklees but the proposed change will see the council hand over management and operational control.

The eight libraries proposed as ‘community managed libraries’ are: Honley, Kirkheaton, Skelmanthorpe, Denby Dale, Mirfield, Shepley, Marsden and Meltham.

The eight libraries have been chosen as they have strong ‘Friends of’ groups and established local community organisations such as a town or parish council.

While being independently-run, the community libraries would still have access to the council’s stock of books and IT infrastructure, equipment and support. The council would also maintain “some management support.”

The other major change will see the district’s two Customer Service Centres – which help and support vulnerable people access council services – move into the libraries.

The Customer Service Centre in Huddersfield moved into the library’s temporary base at Civic Centre III in January last year. A brand new library is due to be built in part of the old Queensgate Market under the Cultural Heart regeneration.

The Customer Service Centre in Dewsbury is based in the Walsh Building next to Dewsbury Town Hall but that has temporarily moved into Dewsbury Library while emergency building repairs take place.

The move for the Customer Service Centres has already led to fears that older people, the vulnerable and those with disabilities could miss out as they need help to access services.

READ MORE: Fears that vulnerable people will ‘slip through the net’ if Customer Service Centres are closed

Councils have a statutory duty to deliver a “comprehensive and efficient” library service and Kirklees says that’s what its plan would continue to provide.

A report to the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday February 20 says the shake-up would save a total of £1.86 million. Moving the Customer Service Centres would save £950,000 in 2024-25 while the ‘community managed libraries’ would save £912,000 in 2025-26.

Overall there would be a loss of 47 full-time equivalent jobs.

Skelmanthorpe Community Library by: SEAN DOYLE

The Cabinet report says: “The eight community-managed libraries will sit outside our statutory provision of 16 libraries but will still have access to resources, including book stock, from the statutory network.

“This model will support us to move to a more strengths-based approach drawing on the knowledge, skills and resources which already exist within our communities.

“This will provide the community the freedom to shape their own offer of support, expand on existing provision and respond to community needs.”

The council’s 10 ‘Integrated Libraries’ are: Huddersfield, Holmfirth, Heckmondwike, Dewsbury, Batley, Cleckheaton, Birstall, Ravensthorpe, Almondbury and Kirkburton.

The six ‘Community Supported Libraries’ that would remain with the council are: Birkby, Lindley, Deighton, Slaithwaite, Golcar and Dalton.

However, the council would be prepared to talk with any group which wanted to take over one of the ‘Community Supported Libraries.’

Honley Library was subject to an asset transfer when Kirklees Council handed over the building to Holme Valley Parish Council in 2022. It was then leased to the Friends of Honley Library.

Jenny Lockwood, speaking on behalf of the Friends group, said: “Over the last 18 months, Honley Library has made enormous strides in improving the building and extending services to the local community, so much so that we are looking for funding to extend the building.

“The support we receive from the Kirklees library services, particularly the staff who support three of the four days we are open to the public, is invaluable. Currently, we are looking seriously at extending the building to cope with the additional usage.

“Obviously if this valuable staffing resource is removed then we will have to look very seriously at our resources to enable us to take on all the additional work that removing the staff will involve.

“We could not have achieved so much as we have in the last year, were it not for the tremendous support we have received from Holme Valley Parish Council and our amazing volunteers.

“If the decision of the council is to remove the staff, then obviously we will require more volunteers and more training to cover the opening hours which currently exist.”