‘We will oppose any closure’: Union vows to fight threat to libraries

Inside Hackney Central library. Photograph: Julia Gregory

A Hackney union boss has criticised the council’s “shock” proposal for a possible permanent library closure.

The council could axe one library in Hackney in an attempt to save money, a document presented to the Town Hall’s cabinet on 22 January revealed.

Hackney Unison branch chair Brian Debus said the union was not consulted on a permanent closure proposal, which he found “very concerning”.

Unison had two meetings with the council’s library management prior to the Town Hall cabinet meeting, but “there was no mention”.

“Usually the council consults us or the senior management on what is tenable and what is not. We were not consulted on that,” Debus said.

Cllr Rob Chapman, cabinet member for finance, insourcing and customer service said the mention of a library closure was just an option for the library service and “no decisions have been made”.

Faced with rising costs, slashed funding from the government, and a financial deficit of £57m, the council asked all its services to come up with savings options to “help us prioritise essential services like caring for vulnerable children and adults”, Cllr Chapman said.

Debus questioned any “massive re-organisation” so soon after a consultation and staff redundancies last year.

“This shows the stupidity of this,” he added. “They went through a big library restructure over the past 12 months.”

He said he is worried about job losses.

“Whichever libraries they were to shut, we would opposite it,” Debus added.

Cllr Chapman said: “The responsible thing to do – in the face of continuing government cuts and year-by-year sticking plaster funding – is to consider savings options that we may be forced to take in future.

“The alternative – failing to balance our budgets – would lead to government intervention and swingeing cuts of all but essential services, which would be failing our residents.”