Councillor Ray Morgon, Leader of Havering Council, said:

“We have seen a tremendous response to the recent library strategy, and the accompanying public consultation.

"We know Havering’s libraries and staff provide a fantastic service to residents and they are places where all ages and communities can come together for, study, activities, support and wellbeing.

“I want to reiterate that no decisions have been made regarding library closures.

"This is why we are consulting with residents, but we know the condition of the library estate requires significant investment in order to maintain its current and ongoing condition.

"The proposal to reduce the number of libraries is one of many painful decisions we will need to make until we get a better financial settlement from the government which accurately reflects the borough’s changing population and need.

“The ongoing consultation will give us the evidence that will help us make decisions and develop proposals, but it comes at an extremely difficult time for the borough.

“With an outdated funding formula from central government and a budget gap of £28 million we are being forced to make further savings. This is the reality that we face.

"The previous Council administration shied away from these tough decisions, which has contributed to our current position.  

“Political opportunists have been in full swing since we started consulting on libraries, but our decision-making will be carefully thought through.

“As part of the Council’s budget-setting process for this year we announced the approval of a Capitalisation Direction from the government, this allows the Council to borrow to set a balanced budget and keep the Council from issuing a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy.

“The Capitalisation Direction is a loan that has to be paid back – with interest, it is a symptom of the outdated funding formula, not the cure.

“Even a change in central government would come too late, if there was to be a change following a general election this autumn, it would not allow sufficient time to impact the Council’s budget setting for 2024/2025.

“Our proposals set out a smaller number of branch libraries meaning we can provide better buildings and facilities to residents with the limited money we have, saving the borough saving more than £300,000 per year.

"These essential savings will go towards the Council’s responsibilities to setting a balanced budget which we must do by law.

“Savings are only one part of the picture. Our libraries require urgent investment.

"Therefore, the strategy proposes developing existing locations and the option for a new children’s library, which includes specialist support for children with special educational needs.

“Over 2,000 residents have taken part in the consultation so far. I urge all residents to have their say on these important proposals and to help us shape the future of our libraries.”

Have your say on the libraries consultation

Published: 21 May 2024