Camden library room hires set to be hiked 600%

Cllr Theo Blackwell.

Cllr Theo Blackwell. - Credit: Archant

The cost of hiring library spaces in Camden will be up to six times higher from next month as the council bids to close a multimillion pound funding gap.

Camden Council signed off its budget for the next financial year on Monday, making £27million of cuts.

Among a raft of new charges and fees included in the budget are proposals to hike the hire cost of spaces in seven Camden Council libraries.

This includes tripling the price of hiring the atrium in Swiss Cottage Library on weeknights from £35 to £140 and quadrupling the cost of hiring an office in Kentish Town Library on weeknights from £35 to £180.

From April 1, Holborn Library will begin charging £350 for the hire of its fourth floor event space on weekend evenings, more than six times higher than its current price (£45).

Cllr Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance and technology policy, said: “We have got a £73m gap to fill [over the next three years] and the council went out and asked people if we could raise money from library spaces.

“Overwhelmingly people said if it contributes to keeping libraries open they are prepared to see it happen. No one has complained.”

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Conservative councillor Jonny Bucknell, of Belsize ward, said the eye-watering price hikes could drive people away from libraries.

“I would love to know whether they are going to put people off,” said Cllr Bucknell.

“When people go to hire a library space, they usually expect a nominal amount and if we do put people off it would be an own goal. To have assets lying idle is not good.

“We are not told the occupancy rates of libraries currently so the new pricing seems completely random. If we were running a hotel, it would be Fawlty Towers.”