Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rotherham's Dolly Parton backed Imagination Library facing axe

Dolly Parton Image copyright bbc
Image caption Country and western star Dolly Parton set up the UK's first Imagination Library in Rotherham in 2007

A children's reading scheme backed by US country singer Dolly Parton is facing closure after a council said it was withdrawing £400,000 of support.

The Imagination Library, in Rotherham, was launched in 2007 as the first UK arm of a project pioneered in the US.

It encourages children under five to read by sending them a free book every month and to date has given more than 950,000 books to children in the town.

The council said it was withdrawing its support because of government cuts.

'Disappointed'

Leader of the Labour-run authority Chris Read said: "Faced with a fifth consecutive year of savings as part of the government's programme of austerity, now totalling £116.9m since 2010, the council was faced with making some difficult decisions in agreeing its budget for 2015-16.

"In addressing the cuts, we have responded to residents' priorities and sought to minimise the impact on front-line services where possible.

"Residents told us which areas were most important to them, and this has resulted in additional investment being put into children's services, extra street cleansing and resurfacing roads.

"We appreciate that many families have valued the work of the Imagination Library, but unfortunately the cuts to the council meant that we could no longer afford to fund it to the tune of £400,000 over the next two years."

He said children would continue to receive books from the Imagination Library until the summer.

A spokesman for the Dolly Foundation said it was "disappointed" with the council's decision.

He said: "We currently reach 85% of all the children under five in Rotherham.

"Internal and external research continues to affirm the positive impact the programme has on better preparing children for school.

"The programme has been successful and we hope that the parents and caregivers who value the programme will share their feelings with the council."

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