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Residents rally to save Bromley’s libraries

Burnt Ash library users Alexander Molony 4 and Lois Forward 4 are against its closure

Burnt Ash library users Alexander Molony 4 and Lois Forward 4 are against its closure

Archant

More than 4,000 people have signed petitions against the loss of ‘life-line’ library services ahead of plans to merge the borough’s services with Bexley.

Bromley council was due to meet on Tuesday night to discuss combining resources used by two million people in the hope of saving around £880,000.

Options to change library services were outlined in February, including proposals to shut eight.

The council hopes sharing will avoid closures but it could not confirm before Tuesday’s meeting if libraries are still under threat.

On Friday, mothers Claire Molony and Colleen Forward, 32, handed a petition to Bromley council leader Stephen Carr with 1,200 signatures against the possible closure of Burnt Ash Library.

Mrs Molony said: “Everyone has been so supportive- it has been overwhelming. Burnt Ash doesn’t have as high lending figures as some libraries but I often sit for hours with my four-year-old son Alexander reading books but we don’t always take them out. He is a fluent reader and he hasn’t even started school yet.”

Mrs Forward added: “It is a really important part of the community. I have taken my children there since they were babies and I see a lot of elderly people there.

“A library can be a life-line as a place to go and to keep your spirits up.”

Staff from both boroughs face redundancies if the proposals to share services go ahead.

Bromley Staff Side union representative Glenn Kelly, who was due to hand in a petition with 3,000 signatures at Tuesday’s meeting, is sceptical about whether the council has ruled out closures.

He said: “Frightened by the response they will get from the people of the borough they are refusing to say whether they are still intending to close the eight libraries. The staff and residents have a right to know that their libraries will be safe from the axe.”

Proposals to be discussed on Tuesday could save Bromley £880,000 over three years — £340,000 of which comes from cutting staff in 2010/11 and £90,000 from merging Penge and Anerley libraries.

The council is considering merging Penge library with Anerley and keeping West Wickham, Bromley, Biggin Hill, Petts Wood, Beckenham, Orpington and Chislehurst libraries.

Meanwhile Burnt Ash, Hayes, Mottingham, Shortlands, Southborough and St Paul’s Cray were ear-marked for closure.

Recreation councillor Julian Bennington, said: “We are in the early stages of exploring options to continue to meet library users’ needs whilst balancing the requirement for financial saving.”

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