Protesters march to save Lewisham libraries


Lewisham locals are taking a stand to save their libraries after the borough council cut £1 million from its library budget.

On Saturday (May 21), hundreds of demonstrators marched from Lewisham Library to Catford in protest against the cuts to the library budget.

Lewisham Council wants to remove staff from four libraries in Lewisham: Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road.

The library service budget for 2015/2016 is almost £3.7 million and the proposed cuts of £1 million would be made over the next two years.

Lewisham’s library service has already seen substantial cuts in recent years with five libraries – Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and Sydenham – surviving by being run by community organisations.

The council hopes that libraries will be run by volunteers as this would reduce staffing costs.

However Unison, the union for the workers, says that this would lead to reduced opening times, an unavailability of professional staff and result in vulnerable users unable to access library resources.

Unison also believes that a lack of volunteers, or inflexible and unreliable volunteers, may lead to further library closures.

Save Lewisham Libraries protest. Pic: Holly Gazzard

Save Lewisham Libraries protest. Pic: Holly Gazzard

A Lewisham council spokesperson said: “As a result of massive funding cuts from central government, we are in a challenging financial position and have to find substantial savings of up to £45 million over the next two years in order to achieve a balanced budget. Difficult decisions have to be made and the future provision of our library service was just one of these.

“The changes to the service will ensure a sustainable library provision continues for residents with the retention of three hub libraries, a continued library presence in Laurence House and three more community libraries. This is in addition to the six community libraries that are already successfully running in the borough.

“We realise how passionate our residents are about the library service and we will be working closely with them as we move through the transition process.”

The protest caused traffic disruptions on the A21 through Lewisham.

Save Lewisham Libraries protest. Pic: Holly Gazzard

Save Lewisham Libraries protest. Pic: Holly Gazzard

Words by Holly Gazzard, video by Holly Gazzard and David Cartwright.

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