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Daily library opening reprieved as council finds extra cash

Plans to close John Harvard Library in Borough High Street one day a week to save money have been dropped by Southwark Council just two days after going public on the proposal.

John Harvard Library

On Monday afternoon Southwark's deputy leader and cabinet member for culture, leisure, equalities and communities Rebecca Lury told an overview and scrutiny committee meeting that five of Southwark's larger libraries would each close on one day per week as part of measures to trim 250,000 from the libraries budget.

Less than two days later, the plan has been dropped and the libraries – including John Harvard – will continue to open throughout the week.

The change – will be confirmed in papers to be presented to the council's cabinet next week before next year's budget is approved by full council.

"We know the importance that residents place on their libraries, they are places of enjoyment, to socialise, play, study and connect to vital services for all ages," said Cllr Victoria Mills, cabinet member for finance, performance and Brexit.

"Southwark Council has a strong record in prioritising and investing in its libraries, despite many years of austerity and government cuts to public services.

"As such, I can confirm that a 1 million reserve, to cover the next four years, has been put in place within the council's budget to ensure that our libraries stay open for years to come. Full details of the reserve will be set out in the council's budget report next week."

Cllr Rebecca Lury added: "This money will ensure that the full spirit of our recently agreed Libraries and Heritage Strategy is delivered.

"It also means that we will not be going ahead with the proposed one-day-a-week closures at John Harvard, Dulwich, Walworth, Peckham and Camberwell Libraries.

"Over 3,000 local residents responded to our recent consultation and we will be planning how this funding can support their priorities.

"In difficult times we will always be a listening council and do our best to prioritise the services our residents value, including spaces to study, community activities, and accessing heritage services as part of our libraries offer."

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