NEW calls are being made to safeguard facilities at Keighley Library amid swingeing cuts.

Fears have been voiced that vital provision could be lost as Bradford Council seeks to slash millions of pounds from its libraries budget.

Last month, claims were made that library bosses had been in talks about bringing together a range of community health and wellbeing services in the historic North Street building.

Andy Wade – who with colleague Ian Walkden has been researching for the Men of Worth Project, featuring local people’s wartime service, since 2003 – says Keighley Library’s “unique” resources are invaluable.

He added: “Over the years our research has been used by degree students and given to other researchers and local teachers. We could not have gathered this information without the archives at Keighley Local Studies Library and the wonderful staff.

“Andrew Carnegie gave money to build the library for the people of Keighley, but now Bradford Council – without any public consultation – plans to convert part of our library into a ‘health hub’ which means we’ll probably lose the Local Studies archive and the brilliant staff.”

Mr Wade said that following an open meeting, questions were raised about the legality of the process due to an alleged lack of public consultation and whether the use of the library could lawfully be changed.

“There will be nothing left by the time Bradford Council has finished destroying our heritage – we must not let them get away with it,” he said.

Concerned Utley resident Jane Lee is also urging people to take action.

She said: “We need letter writers, bloggers, people to get signatures on a petition, activists to lobby locally and people to research and plan a campaign. We need people with time, skills, ideas and enthusiasm, but mostly people who believe in the contribution of the library to the lives of the citizens of Keighley.” She added that a noticeboard would be placed in the library with more information.

But Bradford Council says there are no firm proposals for how libraries could change, and it describes the health hub claim as “a rumour”.

“We have finished consultation for the 2019-20 changes to the libraries and museums services and they were implemented on September 1 – no libraries were closed during this process,” said a spokesman.

“Now is the time to prepare for a programme of engagement and consultation about how people want to see their libraries in future years. There are no firm proposals on the table at the moment for how libraries, including Keighley, might change. Our first step is to listen to people’s views.

“The cuts to all budgets, including libraries, have to be seen in the context of the ninth consecutive year of national Government austerity during which time the demand for children’s and adults’ social care has seen sharp increases alongside rising costs. By 2020-21 we will have delivered over £300m of reductions in the ten years since 2011.

“Our libraries consultation for 2020-21 is about to start and will include undertaking an extensive engagement process, working closely with unions, staff, members of the public and other stakeholders before any proposals are developed – let alone decisions finalised and implemented.

“With reference to the comments that Keighley Library is to be converted into a ‘health hub’, this rumour has come from a press release from Unite the union – not the council. We understand this rumour is based on a conversation eavesdropped by someone and reported to Unite. Inevitably like games of Chinese whispers, this eavesdropped conversation was wholly inaccurate. The door remains open for Unite to continue discussions with us.”

Unite regional officer, Mark Martin, told us: “Bradford’s libraries and museums service is in crisis. Libraries are closing early on a daily basis due to staff shortages.

“This affects the most vulnerable people in society who rely on this service to complete online forms, for example for universal credit claims and job applications or simply to seek sanctuary in our buildings.

“Unite is clear there has been no meaningful consultation from the council and challenges it to provide evidence of this claim.

“Unite met with management and an agreement was made that would bring both parties back to the negotiating table. The council then reneged on the agreed terms.

“Unite is demanding that Bradford Council reverses the cuts for 2019/20 and withdraws any proposals for 2020/21 and calls for the council to invest in libraries and museums to run alongside any investment for its City of Culture bid.

“To do otherwise is an act of cultural vandalism which will be to the detriment of the young people of this city.

"Unite have been given an insight into the proposals for the Keighley hub, it was not an act of eavesdropping but carelessness by council management and an agency member of staff. Unite stands by the report.

“The attempt to belittle a concerned member of the public in an act of whistleblowing is not worthy of comment.

“Unite have on many occasions made it clear that we are prepared to enter into meaningful consultations providing the council pauses the process, but the council has refused to do so.”