Redbridge council leader not ruling out cut to library hours

The council leader has refused to rule out cutting library opening hours, hinting that volunteers could be brought in to make up a shortfall of staff following the latest round of budget cuts.

Cllr Keith Prince was speaking about the 2012/13 budget at a meeting of area committee five on Monday.

He was defending plans to cut an extra �3million from spending in Redbridge from April.

Asked if he could be more specific about the effect of cuts on libraries, Cllr Prince, flanked by deputy council leader Cllr Ian Bond, told the meeting at Barley Lane Primary School, Huxley Road, Chadwell Heath: “I can’t guarantee that we won’t reduce the hours at Seven Kings Library or any library in the borough.

“But if we can get volunteers to work in all of our libraries and keep them open, maybe we can keep them open even longer.”

He was responding to comments by Seven Kings Cllr Bob Littlewood, who said the budget paper was “so vague”.

Cllr Littlewood added: “When you read reports like this you worry that there will be an attempt to cut hours and affect our sensationally successful libraries.”

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Fifteen librarians were made redundant days before Christmas as part of a bid to save �510,000 from the libraries budget.

Seven Kings Library, High Road, was opened in July 2010 and has more than 35,000 visitors a year. Cllr Littlewood said the area was “very proud” of it.

Cllr Prince said: “There cannot be a bigger fan of Seven Kings Library than myself. I was very much involved in the opening and it was my idea to make it a community library.”

He added: “In many ways it’s my baby.”

Deputy Labour group leader Cllr Wes Streeting quipped that the library at Seven Kings should be renamed the Keith Prince Library.

He then raised serious concerns about plans to use volunteers in the borough’s libraries. He asked that the area committee is “kept abreast” of plans as they develop.