Save Lewisham Libraries and Unison trade union are calling on Lewisham Council to reconsider proposals to cut staff hours at the borough’s three council-run libraries.

The council has announced plans to cut £20.8m from its services, with £450,000 of cuts proposed to staff hours at the borough’s libraries.

The “staff reorganisation” will either see all staff cut from Downham and Deptford libraries, making the libraries self-service, or see a reduction in staffed hours across Downham, Deptford and Lewisham libraries.

Library staff have already seen significant cuts in their hours since 2011, when libraries in Blackheath Village, Sydenham, Crofton Park, News Cross and Grove Park were closed.

In 2016, a further four libraries were closed in Forest Hill, Catford, Torridon Road, and Manor House - with Forest Hill and Manor House libraries reopening in 2017 to be run by volunteers.

But making cuts to the borough’s libraries was an “illusionary saving,” Tim Parking from Save Lewisham Libraries said.

He said the borough’s libraries offered a safe space for education, and provided a sanctuary for all types of residents – facilitated by librarians.

“It is a studying and revision space for young people preparing for exams away from the distraction of siblings,” he said.

“Lewisham’s education services are underperforming, and young people aren’t getting the education they deserve.”

A library also gave many residents their only point of access to computers and the internet – with library staff on-hand to help," he said.

He said staff had been working “an awful lot harder” since earlier cuts but were often not able to give customers the attention they would like.

“With a wide range of customers we need trained staff. If the library is just a room is it is difficult to make sure everyone in the room is safe,” he said.

Unison regional organiser Colin Innis said librarian staff morale was low with the news of the proposals.

“This isn’t the first occasion such decisions to cut services has been made, and whilst there will be no closures in the borough that has only been achievable through the use of volunteers, who are doing an excellent job,” he said.

“Already there is a strong and vocal public campaign. We will be doing our best to resist it.

“We ask the council to reconsider. We were hopeful that this austerity agenda will be reversed,” he said.

Mr Parkin encouraged residents to join the Save Lewisham Libraries campaign.

“It is a lovely service that helps an awful lot of people.

“We can save the libraries if we really fight for them,” he said.

Cabinet member for the community sector, Cllr Jonathan Slater, said all Lewisham services were under “serious threat” because of continued budget cuts – with 60 per cent of the council’s funding cut since 2010.

“We are proposing to reduce the library and information service’s budget by £450,000 to help us with these further cuts we face.

“None of the proposals include any library closures, or even reduced hours, and every effort would be made to lessen the impact on our service users. However, it will mean that the hours the libraries are staffed would be reduced.

“Before anything is finalised the proposals will be fully consulted on between December this year and February 2019,” he said.