Cuts to library service feared as council issues latest warning over finances

Conservative leader calls new consultation on the service a “smokescreen” for cuts, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Oakwood Library is one of 16 currently run by Enfield Council
Oakwood Library is one of 16 currently run by Enfield Council

Fears have been sparked that Enfield Council is considering cuts to its library service as it attempts to close a £39m hole in its finances. 

The council is set to launch a consultation this month as it draws up a new library services strategy – however the leader of the opposition Conservatives has called the move a “smokescreen” for cuts.

In its report setting out the reasons to draw up a new library strategy, published at the end of November, the council states that it “must make savings of £39.4million in 2024/25″ and that there is “a forecasted budget gap of £118.7m for the five years through to 2028/29”.

Even though no specific plan to make cuts to the library service has yet been announced, the report warns: “It is inevitable that savings will need to be made now and in years to come across the council in order to set a balanced budget.”

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In response, Tory group leader Alessandro Georgiou told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The council, due to its reckless spending, is £1.2billion in debt. This consultation on the library service is nothing but a smokescreen – library cuts come as a direct result of their financial mismanagement of Enfield borough.”

At present Enfield Council directly runs 16 libraries across the borough. Another library is operated by Raynham Primary School but is not open to the general public.  Enfield’s total of 17 libraries is said to be the highest of any London borough.

The council has been asked to clarify what it is now planning for its library service. A spokesperson said: “We provide a comprehensive library service for people who live, work or study in Enfield.

“This includes books and access to digital resources, quiet spaces for study and reflection, access to support groups and social activities for all ages, health and wellbeing support, makerspaces, training and employment advice. 

“Our phase one engagement is to find out more about how people are currently using our libraries, their experience of them, and how we could deliver our library service more efficiently.  

“We will use the feedback and ideas we get through this engagement to help us develop a draft proposal for a new library strategy for Enfield and consult on this in summer 2024. 

“The engagement is expected to launch in December 2023 and will last for twelve weeks.” 

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