Lewisham council plans job cuts to library services in bid to save up to £500,000

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

Lewisham council is planning to cut up to half a million pounds from its library service budget.

The proposal forms part of £40 million worth of savings the council plans to make over the next three years.

During the pandemic libraries in Lewisham have offered a click and collect service, which the council plans to continue when Covid-19 rates decrease and it is safe to do so.

A council report said: “It has been some years since the council considered how this service is delivered to make sure it fulfils its statutory duties, while also modernising the service and contributing to the cuts the council needs to make.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, the library service has adapted well to offer Covid-safe services to residents, including click and collect and maximising online platforms.

“This has enabled some members of staff to be redeployed to support other services and residents.

“These new ways of working have created both challenges and positive learning, which will be fed into a strategic review of the service.”

The council is reviewing the service to fund cuts of £300,000 to £500,000.

The review is expected to go before mayor and cabinet in March or April and, depending on the outcome, a cut of £100,000 to £230,000 to the library service could be made this year.

Part of the cuts includes a hiring freeze as the service’s salary budget makes up 80 per cent of its total budget.

Freezing recruitment could save £150,000 in 2021/22.

“All staff impacts will look to mitigation via redeployment as first route where possible,” according to the council.

Asked whether libraries could remain just offering the click and collect option permanently, a council spokeswoman said more details on the service review will be shared soon.

“Libraries are one of the services that have been severely disrupted as a result of the pandemic.

“They are currently closed all together due to increasing infection rates in Lewisham and across London, but the home library and e-Library services continue to operate and have done since the start of the pandemic.

“When it is safe to do so, they will resume a normal service.

“However, in order to fill the £40 million gap in the budget, as a result of underfunding from central Government, we do need to find some savings from our libraries budget.

“We will be undertaking a review of the service, which will include engagement with residents and library users, and we’ll share more details of this soon,” she said.

Pictured top: Lewisham Library

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