Haringey’s libraries are a vital service, used by thousands of residents around the borough.

They provide a place for education, for technology and for community. It therefore came as a shock to find out that our Labour-run council has, as part of its budget, pencilled in a cut of over 30% to libraries over the next two years, shortening hours and leaving some buildings unmanned.

Next year will see cuts of £700,000, which will lead to reduced hours across branch libraries at Alexandra Park, Coombes Croft, Highgate, Muswell Hill, St Ann's, Stroud Green and Harringay.

Then, the following year, plans are in place to make even deeper cuts, which will move libraries to a 'self-service' model in which residents will use a keycard to enter library buildings, with replacement of professional librarians with volunteers, no access to toilets without staff present and no CCTV monitoring.

But the costs of introducing self-service and the new entry system haven't even been calculated - so we may end up with a worse service for no saving!

At the same time, the ruling Labour Party’s decision to insource leisure centres will cost taxpayers an additional £700,000 per year when compared to using a leisure specialist to run the service.

Ham & High: Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison is opposed to the proposed cuts in library budgetsCllr Luke Cawley-Harrison is opposed to the proposed cuts in library budgets (Image: D Tothill2018)

The Lib Dem opposition welcomed Haringey’s decision to take control of failing leisure centres away from Fusion, which has failed to keep the facilities up to the required standard, but after that there was a decision to make: allow a well-regarded national provider to take over (several expressed interest) or insource the service at an additional cost of £700,000 a year, putting the council, which has no experience of running swimming pools, in charge of the centres.

The council leadership chose the latter course: they are effectively cutting libraries to pay for their ideological decision. This is a crazy choice.

What most care about with our leisure centres is that they are properly run and pleasant to use, not who operates them, but cuts to libraries will affect thousands of Haringey residents.

Cuts to local government have been tough in the past few years: but that backdrop doesn’t mean that local politicians don’t have choices, or are somehow absolved of the decisions they make.

The final decision will be made by all councillors at the budget meeting on March 4, but with a Labour majority the way our money is spent is down to the decisions they choose to make.

We would implore all residents to show that this particular decision is the wrong one, and sign our petition to Save Haringey Libraries from these drastic cuts: haringeylibdems.org/save-our-libraries

  • Luke Cawley-Harrison is councillor of Crouch End ward, Haringey Council and leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.