London

Hundreds protest against Lewisham library cuts

Protesters Image copyright Chrissie Gittins
Image caption Protesters marched to Lewisham Town Hall in protest at the cuts

Hundreds of people took to the streets of south-east London to protest against planned cuts to library services.

The march from Lewisham Library to the Town Hall even stopped traffic as Transport for London warned of delays in the area.

The march was also in support of striking Unison members who work at libraries in the borough.

Lewisham Council said changes to the service would ensure a "sustainable library provision".

Image copyright Transport for London
Image caption The march even stopped traffic as Transport for London warned of delays on the A21

Chrissie Gittins, a poet and Lewisham's first writer in residence, said the plans would leave the borough with three professionally run libraries, down from 12 in 2011.

She said: "It means that more children, teenagers and adults will not have a professionally staffed library close to them, and they will have to travel further and at greater expense.

"I grew up in a home without books and if it wasn't for my public library I wouldn't have become a writer."

Six community libraries are currently running in the borough - where local groups commit to keeping the libraries open to the public in exchange for minimal rent.

But Ms Gittins said these were "failing their local communities", with borrowing down by 75% since they were set up in 2011.

Image copyright Chrissie Gittins
Image caption Protesters were out in support of striking library workers from Unison

A Lewisham council spokeswoman told the Mercury that "difficult decisions have to be made" to save up to £45m over the next two years.

"The changes to the service will ensure a sustainable library provision continues for residents with the retention of three hub libraries, a continued library presence in Laurence House and three more community libraries.

"We realise how passionate our residents are about the library service and we will be working closely with them as we move through the transition process."

There was a nine day occupation of Carnegie Library in Lambeth last month as campaigners protested against the library's one-year closure.

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