Internal Council plans for closing Westminster Libraries revealed
It seems Westminster’s Council has been quietly planning radical changes to Westminster’s libraries – seemingly without any intention of telling people about them before Council elections on 5th May.
An internal paper entitled ‘Westminster Libraries and Archives: Overview of Transformation and Next Steps’ outlines the key findings from the Council’s review of the library service and makes the case for a number of changes.
Based on the information in this document it seems that the Council is preparing to:
- Close Charing Cross Library and merge it with the Westminster Reference Library
- Close the Westminster Archives- removing the materials to an ‘off-site’ collection.
- Break their promise to replace the St James’ Library
- Only extend the lease on Mayfair Library for a short-period with no commitment on its future
The Council says it is ‘not cost effective’ to continue with both Charing Cross Library and Westminster Reference Library, arguing that as the Reference Library was larger it would be ‘better able to accommodate the combined collections and usage’.
The Council is also planning to close the purpose-built City of Westminster Archives on St Ann’s Street. The council document says ‘it is proposed that the digitisation (of the archives) and off-site storage is explored and fully costed, with a view to repurposing the existing building’.
Labour have been trying to get answers from the Council for a long-time about its plans for the future of the St James Library, closed in 2011 but with a promise by the Conservatives that it would be reopened. Last year the Council decided to waive the requirement for the Nova Development at Victoria to provide its replacement and it now seems clear they don’t have a plan for the future of the library.
The Council so far has only committed to a short-term extension of the lease for the Mayfair library, with no clarity about what might happen next, leaving West End residents with uncertainty about its future.
Westminster Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said:
“Westminster Conservatives need to be open and honest about what the Council is planning for the future of Westminster’s libraries. It can’t be right to prepare plans to merge and close libraries after the election without being open with the public before they have a chance to vote on 5th May.”
Patrick Lilley, one of 3 Labour candidates in the West End, said:
“Mayfair Library is a huge community asset used by a multitude of local people and groups, and should remain open. It’s disturbing that its future is at risk.”
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