By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
Lewisham Council is consulting with residents on the future of its libraries to best manage its planned cuts to the service.
The council said it wants to better understand how people’s lives have changed during the past year, what issues will be critical to their lives in the next few years, and what is most important to them when using the libraries.
The council is reviewing the library service to fund cuts of £300,000 to £500,000, £100,000 to £230,000 of which could be made this year.
The proposal forms part of £40 million worth of budget cuts the council plans to make over the next three years.
Part of the cuts includes a hiring freeze as the service’s salary budget makes up 80 per cent of its total budget.
The council is currently preparing to fully reopen the borough’s libraries after they closed during the pandemic and has launched a survey asking the public what they want from them.
A spokesperson said: “In this transitional phase, the council is balancing a large number of competing demands, with library staff continuing to work across their core duties and the Covid response.
“A further challenge is the intense and well-documented financial pressure on local government.
“To contribute to these savings, while maintaining existing opening hours, the library service may need to change the way it works.”
Cllr Jonathan Slater, cabinet member with responsibility for the libraries service, said: “Lewisham has some of the best-used libraries in the country.
“They offer our residents free access to a wide range of information, learning and creative activities.
“We have retained all our libraries despite the years of austerity.
“We know they are valued by our local communities and we are committed to reopening them all, but to do so we need to make some changes to how they work.
“We recognise that the pandemic has impacted people’s needs and priorities, and we are keen to understand how these have changed so that we can ensure our library services are as relevant as possible going forward.
“I would encourage everyone who uses our libraries to take part in this survey.”
The deadline for survey responses is 5pm on Wednesday, July 21.
The council said it would prefer people to complete the survey online if possible, but different formats can be requested by emailing [email protected].
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