Merton libraries face axe as spending cuts bite


Two of Merton’s most popular libraries could be closed at a meeting of Merton Council’s cabinet on Monday


By Dominic Sutton

Government spending cuts could force the closure of two of Merton’s most popular libraries, say Liberal Democrat councillors.

The plans to shut West Barnes library in Motspur Park and The Donald Hope library in Colliers Wood are on the agenda of Merton Council’s cabinet meeting to be held this Monday.

Both libraries are rumoured to be facing the axe as the council struggles to address a budget gap of £24million for the next financial year.

Any plan to close West Barnes library would be particularly contentious as it also acts as a meeting point for community groups.

It is believed that closing West Barnes library could save the council up to £94,000.

Liberal Democrat councillor, Mary-Jane Jeanes, says her party will oppose the proposals because they believe savings should be made elsewhere.

“The impact of any closure on the community would be absolutely massive,” she said.

“West Barnes is very much on the edge of the borough, it doesn’t have any other major community centre.

“The library provides an excellent service not only as a library but as a place for the elderly and families with young children to go and meet.”

Councillor Jeanes has been handing out leaflets in Motspur Park and says she has heard from plenty of upset West Barnes library users.

“We’ve had a massive response,” she said. “Some people have been using the library for 30 years and are devastated that it might be closed.”

Councillor Jeanes’ colleague, councillor Iain Dysart, will address Monday’s meeting where he will seek to persuade cabinet members such as Labour’s member for communities and culture, councillor Martin Whelton, that closing the libraries would be a mistake.

Councillor Whelton will not confirm whether the libraries will be closed, but he refuses to rule out the move.

“Merton Council faces many difficult decisions and all options are under review,” he said.

“The cabinet have already agreed over £9million of budget savings, but we still need to make further savings.”

Some of those savings would presumably come through job cuts, and staff at West Barnes library looked worried when asked about Monday’s meeting.

Library assistant Caroline Holness said: “We don’t know what’s going on.

“We’ve had a lot of support and several of the local shops are running petitions.

“But if the library closes, I’ll probably be out of work.”

Residents who depend on the library are upset by the proposals.

“How short-sighted can Merton Council be?” said library user Lyn Ballard. “Are they completely insane?”

Her feelings were echoed by many others including David Wilder.

He said: “The library is vital to young and old alike.

“It would be terrible if we lost this place.”

The Evening Standard recently claimed 130 libraries across London face closure due to spending cuts.

When Wimbledon Park and Morden Park libraries closed, alternative provisions were proposed, but only Wimbledon Park got a mobile library for a couple of years.

Those who work in and use West Barnes and Donald Hope libraries must wait anxiously for the outcome of Monday’s meeting to see if their libraries will face a similar fate.

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