By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter
Children and the disadvantaged will be most affected if Croydon Council goes ahead with plans to close five of the borough’s 13 libraries, campaigners claim.
A petition, ‘Save Croydon Libraries’, has now gathered more than 1,000 signatures and calls on the council to keep all libraries open.
As part of cost-cutting measures amid a financial crisis, the council wants to close Bradmore Green, Shirley, Sanderstead, South Norwood and Broad Green libraries.
Consultation is currently open on the plans which runs until March 7.
Back in 2011 Elizabeth Ash was involved in a campaign to save Sanderstead Library and now, 10 years on, is behind the petition against the latest threat to it.
She said: “Young parents will be unable to take their children to the library and get access to activities and good books and start their children on their reading journey.
“It will have a massive impact on the elderly and vulnerable, some people cannot walk long distances or get on public transport to get the library.
“It will affect the most disadvantaged in our society, many people use the library to access IT for job applications.
“The service in Croydon has been cut to the bone for years, any further impact will just destroy it.”
Croydon Council is currently facing a budget black hole of more than £60 million and is set to make a series of cuts over the coming year.
“Cutting these libraries is going to save nothing in the grand scheme of things,” said Elizabeth.
“It is not our fault the council needs to make cuts but we are being penalised for actions made by the council.”
Cabinet member for culture, Oliver Lewis, was asked various questions on the closure of the libraries at a council meeting last night (Monday, January 15) where he suggested volunteers running the five libraries could be an option.
He said: “The challenge is to reduce our spend on a range of services. We seek to find a way that these libraries can be run at zero cost to the council, if people have ideas we encourage them to take part in the consultation.”
But Elizabeth is concerned that not enough people know that their local library may be at risk of closure.
The campaigner from Sanderstead said: “The consultation is being held during a pandemic, lots of residents don’t even know this is going on, it is shocking.
“We don’t seem to be being asked our views properly, the cabinet member has made it very clear that the cuts need to be made.
“Volunteers absolutely add value, but we need trained librarians who can give advice and manage them.”
The Save Croydon Libraries campaign hopes to hold a public meeting on the matter soon and wants those interested to get in touch at [email protected]
The Croydon Council consultation on the future of libraries can be found here: getinvolved.croydon.gov.uk/project/678 and the online petition is here: https://www.change.org/p/croydon-council-save-croydon-libraries.
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