MP calls for halt to cuts threatening Tower Hamlets libraries

MP Apsana Regum... fighting to stop library closurea 

MP Apsana Begum is fighting to stop library closures - Credit: Zoom

The battle to save East End public libraries from being closed down by Tower Hamlets Council is going to Parliament. 

A motion is being tabled in the Commons on Wednesday, February 17, by Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum. 

Youngsters campaign to stop Tower Hamlets Council closing down Bethnal Green library

Youngsters campaign to stop Tower Hamlets Council making library cuts at Bethnal Green - Credit: Glyn Robbins

“Libraries face their greatest crisis since the Second World War,” she said in a statement to the East London Advertiser. “People on low-income suffer the brunt with children from deprived backgrounds losing desperately-needed support outside the classroom.” 

The MP has lodged a Commons motion demanding that libraries are protected from cuts in the post-pandemic period, a move backed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell. 

Three trade unions have also begun an online petition ahead of the council’s key budget meeting on March 3, when the axe could fall on Cubitt Town and Bethnal Green libraries and reduced hours elsewhere, with 35 job losses. 

A people's campaign on the Isle of Dogs led by author Jackie Lees is also trying to halt plans to close Cubitt Town library, following public consultations which finished January 29.

Library campaigner and author Jackie Lees

Library campaigner and author Jackie Lees with her new book on Bob Dylan's time in London. - Credit: Zoe Lees Walsh

Jackie used her local library as "a vital space" to work on her new book Dylan In London, the story of folk-singer Bob Dylan's time at London's Troubadour club in the 1960s, which was published on February 4.

She told the Advertiser: "I felt people should know what is happening as the consultation was too general and not specific about Cubitt Town. This library is a valuable community space, where I finished off my book."

Cubitt Town library

Cubitt Town library. If it was closed it would leave Isle of Dogs without a public library - Credit: Jackie Lees

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She had 1,500 leaflets printed and posted them through letter boxes in a personal fight to stop the closure, which would leave the Isle of Dogs without any library in an area with Britain’s fastest-expanding population.

Jackie is backed by Cllr Andrew Wood who is challenging the closure at the March 3 budget meeting.

No formal decision has been made to reduce libraries and the level of service offered, the council points out.

Their spokesman said: "We've been consulting the public.  The recommendations are being considered at our March cabinet meeting.”

The authority has an extra £4m from Whitehall it didn’t think it had, which campaigners say could keep East End libraries  running.