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Havering Council consultation: Have your say on community-run libraries and new 'community hubs'

PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 July 2019

Residents are invited to a council consultation on whether five of Havering's libraries - including Elm Park - should become community-run centres. Picture: Paul Bennett

Residents are invited to a council consultation on whether five of Havering's libraries - including Elm Park - should become community-run centres. Picture: Paul Bennett

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Five of Havering's libraries could become community-run centres.

Collier Row library is one of five libraries that could become community-run centres.Collier Row library is one of five libraries that could become community-run centres.

The council has launched two consultations asking residents to share their views on the way libraries and children's centre services should be delivered in the future.

Leader councillor Damian White has vowed that although the consultations will look at how the services are delivered, no services or activities currently available at libraries or children's centres will be lost to the communities they serve.

The proposals are for five of the 10 libraries in the borough - Collier Row, Elm Park, Gidea Park, Harold Wood and South Hornchurch - to become community-run with some support from the council.

This means they would be run on a day-to-day basis by community groups, but they would remain in their current buildings and still receive financial and strategic support from the council.

Cllr White said: "We are absolutely committed to protecting our community services and the benefits that our children's centres and libraries provide.

"This is about how we use buildings, not whether cherished services delivering fantastic outcomes across our borough should continue.

"Our commitment is that no service will stop and no activities lost that are currently provided at your library or children's centre, whether that's breastfeeding advice or a 'knit and natter' session."

The children's centre consultation considers moving services from the Chippenham Road, Hildene, Ingrebourne and Rainham Village centres, to different community venues such as schools, early years' settings and community spaces.

Centres in Collier Row, Elm Park and St Kilda's would remain at their current locations.

Finally, the consultation asks residents for their views on "community-hubs".

These hubs would sit at the "heart of communities" and offer a range of services, public events, activities and spaces to meet friends.

Andrew Curtin, leader of an environmental organisation, said: "I'm hugely concerned as a Romford resident and life long user of Gidea Park Library about the destruction Havering Council is seriously planning on wreaking on our hugely under pressure libraries.

"Bearing in mind what libraries can do for mental health and the phenomenal impact on young people, what they're proposing - it's not clear enough.

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"Volunteering at a library is an enormous pleasure. But what if they can only get enough people to keep it open for half a day a week?

"What will happen to our libraries then? The threat is that they will shut these libraries."

According to the proposals, Rainham Village Children's Centre in Upminster Road is one of the centres that could be relocated.

Brigitte Antal, vice chairwoman of the Wennington Village Association, told the Recorder: "According to the council the planned step would be taken in order 'to reach the most vulnerable people in the borough'.

"I believe we are vulnerable enough as we don't have other free services available to our children locally.

"Rainham is supposed to be a regeneration area yet if you ask any young mums in the area the word that comes to mind is regression not regeneration.

"We recently lost our leisure centre and we are not ready to lose services that are working extremely well where they are.

"Rainham is always expected to give, tolerate and put up with anything that's needed elsewhere in the borough.

"We need this service here and attendance numbers are there to prove this."

Rainham and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, added: "I welcome the consultation as it shows that service changes are not a done deal.

"I have some concerns about the proposals and hope residents will take the time to comment as this move could potentially leave Rainham without a children's centre.

"There are also concerns around possible staff redundancies across the library service.

"I hope Havering Council will be discussing possible changes with the trade unions as part of the consultation."

Public meetings will be held at every library and children's centre to discuss the proposals with residents and service users.

The consultation will close on Wednesday, September 18.

Visit consultation.havering.gov.uk/communications/haveringfrontdoors.

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