Library campaigners plan to gather this Saturday (20th August) to protest the £1m cuts to Lewisham Council’s library budget, which will see staff removed from four libraries across the borough.
Under current plans, Forest Hill, Catford, Torridon Rd and Manor House libraries will lose staff as the council is looking to hand over responsibility for the libraries to community organisations.
The council says it has to make budget cuts of £45m over the next two years and closing the libraries and cutting staff would save around £1m. However, the Save Lewisham Libraries campaign group believes that the cuts could be "easily reversed" by using a "small percentage" of the council’s reserves.
Campaigners also fear that if the council cannot find any community groups to run the libraries, agency staff will be brought in “at a greater cost to the council than the experienced staff who are losing their jobs” or that staff from other libraries will be asked to step in, leading to “substantially reduced opening hours”.
The march, organised by Save Lewisham Libraries, will see protestors call on the council to reverse its decision and reinstate staff at the four libraries currently under threat.
Library user and march organiser Ian Crosson said: “Despite overwhelming local opposition, the council is pressing ahead with its plans to remove staff from libraries in Hither Green, Forest Hill and Catford. They want volunteers to run the libraries, but we’ve seen borrowing rates plummet where this has happened elsewhere in the borough. These plans will bring our libraries dangerously close to being shut down altogether. Volunteer delivered library services simply can’t offer the skilled support, range of materials and safe public space that properly staffed and resourced library branches provide."
Crosson added: “Growing numbers of libraries across London and the UK are being handed over to volunteer groups, and many are in danger of closing their doors for good as a result. In Lewisham we’re sending a clear message that this is not what residents want. Mayor Sir Steve Bullock must now choose whether or not he’ll listen and reverse this damaging cut. We hope he’ll take this opportunity to restore the lifeblood of Lewisham’s communities.”
Demonstrators will meet at 12pm and march from Catford Town Hall to Lewisham Library to protest the cut. The march on Saturday follows a demonstration in May, which saw hundreds of people march to support the campaign to save Lewisham's libraries.