Future library closures ‘over my dead body’ says Camden Councillor

Jonathan Simpson assures the meeting that more libraries will close 'over his dead body'

Jonathan Simpson assures the meeting that more libraries will close 'over his dead body' - Credit: Harry Taylor

The Friends of West Hampstead Library got a welcome anniversary gift when the councillor responsible for libraries told them further library closures would happen “over his dead body.”

Camden libraries will be protected from future closure, a Labour councillor has revealed.

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, cabinet member for promoting culture and communities, told the West Hampstead Library AGM last night: “It will be over my dead body that libraries in Camden will close.”

The evening was held to celebrate the Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL)’s 20th birthday. Formed in 1998, they have fought against the library on Dennington Park Road being closed.

Fortune Green councillor Flick Rea, who is a member of the FoWHL committee, warned while plans for library closures had gone quiet, there should be no complacency over the its future.

“Once upon a time, there were a lot of libraries in Camden ,and they were the jewel in our crown. However every so often, when the council needs to cut money, they come up with plans to close our libraries.

“When they get rejected, the plans go back on top of a dusty shelf, onto to be dusted off again years later when the next lot of cuts are needed.

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“We’re in a good place at the moment, but that could always change,” she said.

Speaking later in the meeting, Cllr Simpson, whose council remit includes libraries, replied there would be no closures on his watch despite 50per cent cuts to council funding.

A cake was cut to celebrate the milestone by Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, who lives in West Hampstead, along with Cllr Rea, Janet Peddar, and FoWHL chair Simon Inglis. A new clock in the library was also unveiled to mark the occasion.

Mr Inglis, who lives in West Hampstead, said the reaction from the public was positive when the library held events last year, but people still needed to use them. “Libraries are like churches, in that people don’t go there but they think that they should be there. People come in and say they’ve lived locally and have never been in. It’s a case of use it, or lose it.”

The AGM also saw long-standing FoWHL committee members Alan Templeton and Jeannie Cohen stand down.