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Massive budget cut has left future of Highgate Library 'hanging in balance'

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 August 2012 | UPDATED: 12:11 23 August 2012

The Friends of Highgate Library

The Friends of Highgate Library

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The Friends of Highgate Library fear they may not be able to raise £110,000 to keep it open next year.

Camden Council is cutting the library’s budget by that amount from next April. At the moment the library in Chester Road costs £163,000 to run.

Linda Lefevre, treasurer of the Friends of Highgate Library, said: “The library’s future hangs in the balance – £110,000 is a massive cut and leaves us with £50,000 to run some kind of service.

“The way the finances are, there is a long fight ahead.”

Savings have had to be made across the whole of Camden’s library service, which included handing over Belsize, Primrose Hill and Heath libraries to the community to run.

The libraries consultation in 2011 confirmed Highgate and Regent’s Park libraries would need to change the way they are run.

It has been suggested that part of the building should be leased to provide an income of up to £35,000.

Mrs Lefevre said: “This is not going to meet the shortfall. We need to raise significant funds. We will have to put in huge amounts of work.

“We are not looking to take over the running of the library. We are hoping the council will continue to run the service.”

A working group, which includes members of the Friends of Highgate Library, has been set up to come up with ways of raising the money.

Commitment

“We are worried about generating the income but we are determined,” said Mrs Lefevre. “A lot of people who use the library are elderly people and young children. It is a vital community hub.”

Cllr Tulip Siddiq (Labour), cabinet member for culture, pledged the council will do everything it can to keep it open.

She said: “Despite massive cuts to our budget from national government, we are committed to providing a strong library service in Camden.

“There are no plans to close Highgate Library and we are hopeful we can achieve shared use by next April, which will reduce overall running costs of the library.

“I am fully aware of how much Highgate Library is valued by the community and reaffirm my commitment to ensure that it stays open despite our budget pressures.”

Highgate Library was the first public library in St Pancras and opened in October 1906.

It is a Grade II-listed building and has a covenant which requires it to provide a library service.

n To find out more and to donate, visit www.dartmouthpark.org/FOHL

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