Five public libraries in Havering could shut down as Havering Council bids to generate more savings.

Libraries in Collier Row, Elm Park, Gidea Park, Harold Wood and South Hornchurch are on Havering Council’s list of potential closures with a library strategy consultation running for 12 weeks until August 2.

Four of these could be axed, leaving the borough with six public libraries including the one in Romford.

Romford Recorder: Collier Row library on Collier Row roadCollier Row library on Collier Row road (Image: Riddhi Kachhela)A council spokesperson said the announcement comes “at a difficult time” for the borough and it continues to face financial challenges while delivering essential services for the most vulnerable.

Read More: Havering Council reintroduces library book late return fines

Last year, a wider budget consultation was launched where the council had asked local people to share their thoughts on reviewing the library service.

The spokesperson has claimed that the five libraries earmarked for closure only account for around 20 per cent of visits each year in the borough, while the remaining six contribute to more than 80pc.

Many of the library buildings in Havering are also said to be in “poor condition or are approaching the end of their natural life”.

Romford Recorder: Harold Wood library on Arundel RoadHarold Wood library on Arundel Road (Image: Google Street)The closure of the libraries, the spokesperson added, will save the council more than £300,000 per year and will allow it to make some of the buildings and facilities better for the libraries that will continue to stay open.

The planned changes include developing options for a new children’s library, with specialist support for children with special educational needs, they said.

The spokesperson added: “These essential savings will go towards the council’s responsibilities to setting a balanced budget which it must do by law."

The consultation will also seek people’s views on the levels of future book stock across all libraries.

Councillor Paul Middleton, cabinet member for digital, transformation and customer services, said the council is facing a budget gap of £28m due to “an outdated funding formula” from central government and is being forced to make further cuts.

“Our libraries and staff provide a fantastic service to residents, they are places where all ages and communities can come together for, study, activities, support and wellbeing.

“Libraries also support our physical and mental health, helping residents in becoming less lonely and connecting others digitally via free internet access.

“The proposals to reduce the number of libraries is one of many painful decisions we will need to make until we get a better deal from government which accurately reflects the borough’s changing population and need”, he added.

The council also recently decided to re-introduce late fee charges on adult books in public libraries to add to its revenues.

Cllr Middleton said: “I urge all residents to take part in our consultation and to help us shape the future of our libraries.”

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas published a letter addressed to Havering Council's chief executive in which he said the closure of South Hornchurch and Elm Park libraries were "especially unwelcome".

Romford Recorder: Jon Cruddas MP has written to the council about the closure plansJon Cruddas MP has written to the council about the closure plans (Image: Andrew Achilleos)

"While I understand the complex and difficult financial position Havering Council finds itself in, having spoken on that very subject in Parliament last year, there is a long-term cost of short-sighted savings. 

"When I visit the libraries in South Hornchurch and Elm Park- both earmarked for closure, I am always struck by the amount of people who are there not to borrow or return books, but to access services online, take part in community groups, or to find a quiet place to study", he added.

He urged the council to consider other options like switching to a volunteer-led model that has seen libraries remain open operating as registered charities.

The link to the survey can be found here: Havering Council Libraries Consultation - London Borough of Havering Council - Citizen Space