Borough libraries set to close under new council proposals

PLANS have emerged to close half of the borough’s libraries as part of the government’s drastic spending cuts.Three Dagenham libraries – Wantz Library, Rush Green and Robert Jeyes – as well as Barking’s Markyate library and a fifth, unnamed facility, could face the chop in the new financial year of 2011/12.

Members of the Safer and Stronger Community Select Committee will decide if the proposals should go ahead at a town hall meeting next month.

Barking and Dagenham Council say the closures are just proposals at this stage as part of an overall spending review.

But residents living in the borough have already expressed concern at the plans.

A Rush Green resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s devastating. It’s our only contact with the council. People have to get fares to go anywhere else. You can read the ads in the papers for free and it’s what unemployed people do.

“Mothers come here with their children, they can socialise. The library is for the benefit of everybody.”

While two new libraries have recently been built (Dagenham library opened just a month ago, and Barking Learning Centre opened in June 2008), both are located in the two main shopping areas of the borough – Barking town centre and Dagenham Heathway.

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Residents in the Chadwell Heath area – the northern part of the borough – are set to lose out as they will have to travel further for library access.

Retired nurse Anne Estlea, 50, of West Road, said: “It is going to affect an awful lot of elderly people, who will have to get buses. You’re looking at journey times of over an hour and a half.

“We do understand that it’s a recession and that cuts have to be made. But for goodness sake, don’t take away local facilities.”

The move would save the council �750,000 to �1million a year.

Chadwell Heath councillor, Sam Tarry, said: “I would be very surprised if Robert Jeyes would be closed. I will certainly be campaigning against it.”

But he said the council was exploring every possible saving it could make in case it came to the worst case scenario.

“The residents I spoke to were rightly quite angry but it’s only a recommended proposal. We’re bringing everything out on the table and we want people to be involved in those decisions.”

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