Five Lewisham libraries facing closure must wait another two months to discover their fate, after Mayor Steve Bullock delayed a decision on the future of library services in the borough.
A decision was due, along with the Mayor’s other budget recommendations, at this Wednesday’s crucial Lewisham Council cabinet meeting which will be discussing the borough’s £60 million of proposed spending cuts.
“I did not seek election to close down libraries,” Mayor Bullock said in a statement on Friday. “However, the size of the cuts we are faced with due to decisions taken by this Tory/Lib Dem Government mean that we are faced with very difficult choices.”
Any decision on library closures would be delayed, Mr Bullock said, to give time for plans to relocate or reduce library services to be “firmed up”.
“The current proposals do not provide enough detail on the alternative community library proposals. I am therefore minded next week to defer a decision on this proposal for two months.” the Mayor’s statement concludes.
Wednesday’s Mayor and Cabinet meeting is expected to announce the beginning of a process of cuts and efficiencies that will see Lewisham’s spending reduced by nearly a third over three years.
Raymond Woolford, of the Lewisham branch of the group ‘People Before Profit’, labelled the Mayor’s apparent stay of execution on libraries “a smokescreen to distract people from the horrible cuts coming to Lewisham”.
Plans to close libraries should be “scrapped not postponed”, he added.
A public consultation over Sydenham, Grove Park, Crofton Park, Blackheath and New Cross libraries received over 14,000 signatures in opposition to proposed closures.
The library petitions, part of the ‘Our Lewisham, Our Say’ consultations, were cited by the Mayor as a factor in his decision to postpone a decision on the fate of the threatened libraries, and will be taken into further consideration, along with the consultations other findings at Wednesday’s meeting.