Cuts sub-plot at Rainham Library opening

The Mayor cuts the ribbon in the presence of councillors library staff and the building contractors

The Mayor cuts the ribbon in the presence of councillors library staff and the building contractors - Credit: Archant

There was a twist in the tale at the opening of Rainham Library last week when demonstrators protested against budget cuts and a councillor was caught out by a heckler.

Children enjoy their new colourful reading area

Children enjoy their new colourful reading area - Credit: Archant

The new multi-million pound project is part of the council’s vision to improve the area and received £2m of funding from the Mayor of London.

Mayor of Havering, Cllr Linda Trew, was on ribbon-cutting duty at the new attraction, which comes with new smart tables, computers, an educational and community space, and 3,000 more books.

Deputy mayor for housing, Richard Blakeway, said: “This is a wonderful example of how a site can be put back into the heart of the community delivering a fantastic public library and much needed new affordable homes.”

But with £60m of cuts needed, the library service budget is set to be slashed by £1.18m, a move that would see reduced opening hours at some branches and the loss of the local studies centre.

Six banner-wielding residents rallied against the cuts by handing out flyers outside on the day.

Cllr Melvin Wallace, cabinet member for culture and community engagement, gave a speech at the opening in which he steered away from the cuts to focus on the improvements the centre will bring to Rainham.

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He said: “This is a fantastic addition to the village – it’s more than just a library, it’s a community hub.”

Briefly touching on the cuts, he said: “We are about to go into a period of consultation, mainly around the current opening hours, but one thing is for sure, this new library will make a massive difference in the community.”

There was one awkward moment however, when Cllr Wallace was heckled by someone after praising the local studies centre.

Former councillor Andrew Curtin witnessed the exchange. He said: “Cllr Wallace didn’t seem to know he was proposing to cut the small local studies library completely when challenged about it by an extremely irate resident.”

Mr Curtin insisted the facility was one of the “key reasons” the council received millions of pounds for projects due to its documents providing a good foundation for restoration works.

Cllr Wallace said he understood some proposals were “difficult” but stressed plans were still open to consultation.

On being heckled, he added: “I was taken aback when someone interrupted me while I was speaking, but we were celebrating volunteers and the great contribution they make.”

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