600 sign petition to save West Hampstead Library as Camden consults on closures

Cllr Phil Rosenberg, Susan Healey, Philip Healey, Virginia Berridge, Geoff Berridge, Cllr James Yard

Cllr Phil Rosenberg, Susan Healey, Philip Healey, Virginia Berridge, Geoff Berridge, Cllr James Yarde and MP Tulip Siddiq outside West Hampstead library to campaign against the proposed closure of Camden's libraries. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The proposed closure of Camden’s libraries to make £800,000 worth of cuts has been met with an upsurge of fierce opposition from supporters.

Labour-run Camden Council is consulting on ways to make savings to the libraries service to plug a £70million deficit left by cuts to its government funding.

It has pledged to do all it can to keep its nine council-run libraries open, but cannot rule out closing any one of them, as reported in the Ham&High last week.

The admission has prompted nearly 600 people in West Hampstead in just five days to sign a petition opposing the proposed closure of their library, while many others across the borough have also rallied against the plans.

West Hampstead Labour councillor Phil Rosenberg, who launched the petition last week, said: “We understand the council has to make cuts with their funding slashed by 50 per cent, which is hard for anyone to stomach, but closure should not be an option.”

He added: “It would be a massive blow. This is not just about books but this is where the community meets.”

Hampstead and Kilburn Labour MP Tulip Siddiq has backed the West Hampstead campaign to save the library.

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Under her watch as former cabinet member for culture and communities, the community stepped in to save three libraries from closure in Hampstead, Belsize Park and Primrose Hill when the council slashed £1.6million from its libraries service in 2011.

In a 12-week consultation launched yesterday (Wednesday), the council is now considering:

n Closing any one of its nine libraries, including West Hampstead, Swiss Cottage, Kentish Town and Highgate

n Outsourcing the running of libraries to a private company

n Reducing opening hours

n Cutting staff hours and making libraries self-service, or

n Basing libraries on the hybrid model at Highgate Library, where volunteers run the service with one council staff member.

Keats Community Library chairman of trustees Steven Bobasch was among volunteers who saved the library in 2011 from closure.

He is sympathetic to the council’s funding dilemma, but added: “To save the amount they need, they would have to close between three and five libraries, which is quite draconian”.

Cllr Abdul Hai, cabinet member for customers, communities and culture, said: “We have to consider every option. Although there are tough decisions to be made, we are approaching this consultation with an open mind and want to be transparent and involve the local community in how to make savings.”

n Have your say online.