Long-awaited results to libraries consultation published

Charlotte Newton

THE majority of those who took part in a survey on the future of Camden’s libraries do not want any to close and 1,841 said they would volunteer to help keep them open, results published this week show.

Camden Council announced earlier this year that it wants to make �1.6million in savings to the libraries budget as part of a reduction in its settlement from national government.

The consultation survey, which ran from February 7 to April 4, sought library users’ views on the best way to make those savings.

A total of 6,183 filled in the consultation, including 1,069 children who took part in their own survey. In the adult survey, 36 per cent – 1,841 – said they would volunteer to keep the 13 libraries open and 72 per cent – 3,682 – are in favour of volunteers being used in Camden.

The document, published on Monday, states: “The majority of residents said they think libraries are a vital service to themselves and others and they should not be closed.

“Some commented that the consultation was not a fair one and that there was no option to say they did not want the cuts at all.”

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The results show that of those who responded to the question of how they would make the “first �1m savings”, 57 per cent said they would prefer to see a 40 per cent reduction in opening hours.

On the question of how the council should make a further �500,000 of savings, 63 per cent of respondents opted for a 10 per cent reduction in opening hours (which would save �250,000).

In response to the question of how the council should make the final �100,000 of savings, 65 per cent of respondents said they would prefer to see charges increase.

Leisure boss Cllr Tulip Siddiq said she was overwhelmed by the response, especially as 1,000 children took part. “It demonstrates the strength of feeling for libraries in Camden,” she said. “There is no stone I won’t overturn to minimise the disruption to libraries during this difficult financial time.”

She added that the results to the survey were just one part of the decision making process and she will also take into account other factors, including public meetings and emails she has received from library users.

The final decision on the future of libraries will be announced at the end of May and the cabinet will formalise that decision on June 8.

But library user Helen Marcus and former C-Plug chairwoman was unimpressed. She said: “The council has plucked this figure of �1.6m out of thin air. It has a budget of �1bn and employs 5,000 people. There are very few job descriptions to explain what these people do. Unless we know what they are being paid to do it’s nonsense to say we have to save �1.6m.”

Frognal and Fitzjohn’s councillor Andrew Mennear said: “Cllr Siddiq should now use these results to get her cabinet colleagues to agree to a much quicker – and wider – sharing of services with other boroughs, increase the use of volunteers to run libraries and find other ways to bring in outside sponsorship and facilities.”