Conservatives press case for ‘Library Lock’ policy

Conservative councillors are calling on Greenwich Council to adopt their ‘Library Lock’ proposal to protect smaller libraries in the borough, amid renewed concerns over Labour councillors’ centralisation of library services in Town Centres.

In a motion set to be debated at the Town Hall on Wednesday (25th January), Conservative councillors have called on the Labour-run council to “explicitly commit to maintaining all of the borough’s smaller libraries” in New Eltham, Coldharbour, Charlton, Blackheath, Plumstead, Slade Centre, Thamesmere and West Greenwich – and to ensure that local schools are encouraged to make use of these for library trips, and not just the three Centres.

Figures show that together these eight smaller libraries serve more than half a million visitors and issue more than 250,000 items every year. Despite this, council policy continues to focus on the larger ‘co-located’ libraries in the Woolwich, Greenwich and Eltham Centres, and the planned co-located replacement library at Abbey Wood as part of the Crossrail development.

Labour councillors voted down a similar Conservative ‘Library Lock’ proposal in December 2015, prompting further concern over their commitment to libraries that serve smaller communities away from the borough’s town centres.

Since then, the council has controversially closed the Mobile Library Service, which issued 30,000 books a year – a decision which Conservatives say makes the protection of smaller libraries even more important. Conservative councillors, who opposed the closure, have since been pressing for a greater role for smaller libraries in mitigating the impact of the decision, such as school visits.

Councillor Mark Elliott, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Conservative spokesperson on Culture, said: “We are giving Labour councillors another chance to back our Library Lock policy – and give some reassurance to residents over the future of the borough’s smaller libraries. While it is good news that the larger co-located libraries are performing well, smaller libraries in communities like New Eltham and Charlton are too often overlooked.

“Not everyone can get to the larger town centre locations, and our smaller libraries need investment and support – particularly since the council’s deeply disappointing decision to close the mobile library last year. This should include making much more of an effort to encourage school visits to use their local library wherever possible.

“The council has an ideal opportunity to do this later this year with National Libraries Week, and we would like to see a new working group on this to make sure it has the biggest impact possible.”