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Council budget: Ex-libraries chief slams ‘vandalism’

15:00 29 August 2014

Cllr Andrew Curtin with the book he has translated from Russian into English

Cllr Andrew Curtin with the book he has translated from Russian into English

Archant

Plans to slash the library budget by more than a third and reduce opening hours have been described as an act of “vandalism” by a former department chief.

The proposed changes to the service are expected to save £1.138million.

Cllr Roger Ramsey, leader of Havering Council, said: “Our starting point was that we are not willing to close any libraries. We have refurbished most, just opened a new library in Rainham and we are having a new one built in Harold Hill, so we had to think of another way.”

The Conservative administration is proposing to keep Romford, Hornchurch, Harold Hill and Rainham libraries open six days a week, but reduce the opening hours of the other six to three-and-a-half days a week.

Former councillor Andrew Curtin, who was responsible for Havering’s libraries until May, said: “Already I have been contacted by residents who want to know what they can do to stop this act of vandalism.

“No one is saying libraries should be spared from cuts – they weren’t when I was responsible for them before May – but they should be treated more equitably than is currently being proposed, and councillors should do the hard work to minimise the negative effect that this has on our quality of life.”

Cllr Ramsey said that if teams of volunteers were available and willing to help keep libraries open for longer hours, this would be considered.

He added that the book lending service would remain free, but charges were planned for the use of library computers.

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