The opening shots have been fired in a battle to safeguard Batley library.
The town’s History Group is spearheading action to ward off any attempt to sell off the iconic library building and move the service to the town hall.
Rumours surfaced last week that Kirklees Council could be considering such a move in a round of budget cuts – a claim which has not been confirmed by the authority.
Led by chairman Malcolm Haigh, the group has swung into action – launching a protest petition and preparing a letter to be sent to every councillor in Kirklees urging them to block any bid to sell the building.
Mr Haigh said any thought of moving the service and selling the building was ‘tantamount to treason’. “It would tear the heart out of this town,” he said.
But he warned that time was tight. “We need signed petition forms back by February 18 as the council budget meeting is on February 20,” he said.
The issue has triggered a backlash of public feeling. The library was built in the early 1900s with money from wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The land needed was then provided by the local Ackroyd Trust on condition it was used for a library.
“We hope councillors will realise the agony many Batelians feel at the mere prospect of losing that building,” said Mr Haigh.
History Group members are circulating petition forms, an online facility is being set up and petitions will be available along Commercial Street. Mr Haigh said there could even be a ‘petition table’ outside the library itself.
Petition forms are available to be signed or taken away at The News office in Commercial Street. The link to the online petition is: http://epetition.kirklees.public-i.tv/epetition_core/community/page/index
Ward councillors say they can’t comment because of ‘budget protocol. Last week, Kirklees Council said no formal decisions have been made but that the district’s library service had been ‘under review for some time’. This week, a spokesman said it was unlikely there would be anything further to add until nearer the budget.