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Library services under threat in council budget review

Wandsworth councillors are being asked to consider changes to library services in the borough as part of the nationwide cuts in public spending. They will be presented next week with a series of options affecting local library services as the council seeks to make £55m worth of savings over the next four years. The coalition government's recent comprehensive spending review announced that all local authorities in England and Wales would see their central Government grant cut by 27 per cent over the next four years. This represents a loss of at least £55m in income to Wandsworth between now and 2014.

One option would see the closure of the borough's six smaller neighbourhood libraries. This would save just under £1.2m a year in running costs while leaving the remaining five main town centre libraries which accounted for almost 75 per cent of all visits to branches last year.

An alternative option would mean an overall reduction in library opening hours accompanied by the closure of one of the smaller neighbourhood libraries - York Gardens. Council figures show that this library issued the least number of books last year, and has the lowest number of active adult borrowers of any local library. It is also claimed to be the most expensive to run in relation to its visitor numbers.

The closure of York Gardens would mean that the nearest library for its current users would be Battersea Library on Lavender Hill (just over half a mile away). Battersea Park, Northcote and Wandsworth Town libraries are about a mile away. Closure of York Gardens could save the council up to £219,000 a year. If this option were combined with reduced opening hours at other local libraries, which would on its own save £563,000, the total saving would be some £782,000.

Councillors on the environment, culture and community safety scrutiny committee will be discussing the changes at their meeting on November 15. They are expected to recommend that both options are submitted for full and widespread public consultation in the months ahead.

Date posted: 6 November 2010