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Library users are outraged at Camden’s plans to transfer the responsibility for running and financing Belsize, Chalk Farm and Heath libraries to residents.

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Under plans which go before the council cabinet on Wednesday, councillors are expected to vote to reduce opening hours at all of the borough’s 13 libraries by 10 per cent and give the go-ahead for three to be transferred to community groups from 2013, as part of the council’s £2million cost-cutting drive to its libraries budget.

Supporters of the libraries fear the move could signal the end for all three, which cost more than £500,000 a year to run.

Two other proposals involve closing seven libraries or reducing opening hours at all 13 by 35 per cent, and transferring Chalk Farm and Belsize to the community. Residents who took part in the consultation have dismissed it as a sham and accused the council of ignoring their wishes to keep all libraries open.

Chalk Farm library representative Philippa Jackson, 38, said: “We are horrified by the proposals, particularly as we were proactive in seeking alternative models. We seem to have shot ourselves in the foot by engaging with them.

“We will do whatever we can to keep it a public service library and councillors who vote to close them will be punished at the next election.”

Alan Templeton, Camden Public Libraries User Group chairman, said: “Without using any four letter words, this report is a mish-mash without any real thought behind it, apart from saving the senior officers’ posts.

“We have a different attitude to the library service. It’s a service for the community which supports literacy in a city which is very deficient in that.”

Tony Hillier, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society questioned why the council had left so little time between the report’s publication last Friday, and Wednesday’s meeting.

But culture boss Tulip Siddiq said that the decision to target the three libraries was based on users expressing an interest in volunteering, the proximity of libraries in the area and an equality impact assessment.

Campaigners urge anyone worried about libraries to attend a scrutiny committee meeting on Monday at the Town Hall at 6.30pm.

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