Five libraries in Lewisham are set to close under new money-saving proposals from the borough’s council.
As part of its attempt to cut public spending by around £60 million over the next three years, the authority is planning to axe libraries in Sydenham, Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park and New Cross.
The plans, included in a recent document published on the council’s website and tabled for discussion at a meeting of the Council’s Public Accounts Select Committee on 13 July, caused upset among some of the borough’s book-lovers after they were highlighted by local bloggers and concerned citizens on Twitter.
Under what it terms ‘restructuring’ Lewisham’s library service, the document details an intended saving of £830,000 – most of which will derive from the planned closures.
“Around £80k will be achieved by reshaping service delivery in the Home Library Service with a proposed staff restructure and reduction in posts,” the report reads.
“The remainder of the saving will be achieved by reducing the number of libraries and associated restructure of staff. A public consultation will commence in the summer to seek views on a proposal to close 5 libraries,” it continues.
“Proposals will include options as to how residents in affected neighbourhoods could access some library services. Library buildings should be considered as assets for the whole Council, the community and its partners. Service co-location, community management and asset transfer are all being considered as part of these proposals.”
Library user Helen Dangote, commenting on the Blackheath Bugle blog, criticised the move. “There are better ways to save money than to close down these vital hearts of the community,” she said.
“I have been using Blackheath library since moving down there to care for my mum two years ago, and she too been using it as long as I can remember. Closing it would mean the end of the road for a number of the elderly people who use it as a place to meet and socialise with society.”
But some others were more sympathetic to the plans. One anonymous commenter on the Brockley Central blog wrote: “It’s easy to get people to oppose library closures, it is less easy to actually get them using their local library.”
“Do we really need so many small libraries across the Borough? I’d rather have 3-5 well stocked, good IT, large libraries with professional leadership in the North South, East & West (& possibly also Centre) of the borough, coupled with a good outreach service to the elderly and those less mobile.”
Speaking to the Lewisham News Shopper about the proposed cuts across the borough’s public spending, Mayor Steve Bullock admitted that their scale would be brutal. He said: “We have to take £1 out of every £4 which is spent in Lewisham – so it goes without saying there’s going to be a pretty shocking list of savings.”
The full list of proposed budget cuts can be found on the council’s website, here.