Havering Council has been urged to rethink its plans to close four libraries in the borough as opposition to the plan mounts.

Four public libraries in Havering are facing a potential shutdown as the council aims to address its multi-million pound budget shortfall.

Libraries in Collier Row, Elm Park, Gidea Park, Harold Wood and South Hornchurch are on the council’s list of potential closures.

Public service union Unison has urged the council to explore alternative options before resorting to such "drastic" measures.

Unison London regional organiser Fran Allton said: "Libraries do more than simply provide books.

"They’re crucial to a range of residents, and a free service many rely on.

"The council shouldn’t be choosing quick fixes without considering the harm to communities.

"There must be a rethink."

Unison Havering branch secretary Gabby Lawler added: "The value provided by libraries far outweighs the immediate financial savings and the long-term social cost of closures will be profound."

Havering Council said that "no decisions have been made" regarding the closures, and that they have already consulted with more than 2,000 residents about the decision.

READ MORE: Havering Council proposes closing public libraries

Council leader Ray Morgon said: "Libraries do play such an important role in serving our communities and the council will continue to work with Unison, who we consider a key partner in the future of our libraries."

Cllr Morgon explained that the decision to possibly close the libraries is one of the many difficult choices the council will need to make until they get a "better deal" from central government.

Romford Recorder: Julia Lopez at Harold Wood Library. The MP called its potential closure short sightedJulia Lopez at Harold Wood Library. The MP called its potential closure short sighted (Image: Office of Julia Lopez)

He said: "With an outdated funding formula from central government and a budget gap of £28 million we are being forced to make further savings.

"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.

"I urge all residents to have their say and to help us shape the future of our libraries."

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas previously wrote to the council's chief executive Andrew Blake-Herbert to express his concern about the potential closure of Elm Park and South Hornchurch libraries.

Now Julia Lopez MP, who represents Hornchurch and Upminster, says she has raised the issue with libraries minister Lord Parkinson in a meeting about the legal duties of the borough to provide a library service to Havering’s residents.

Ms Lopez has also written to Cllr Morgon to oppose the closures, which she dubbed "short-sighted" and is backing a Tory-led petition against them.

She said: “The importance of Havering’s libraries goes beyond traditional book-lending.

"They are community hubs from which people can access computers, book meeting rooms, scan and print documents, and access certain council services."

The council has previously said the closures would save it 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.

A spokesperson said the five libraries being considered for closure only make up around 20 per cent of the borough's yearly library visits.