Greenwich council cuts latest: Greenwich Libraries Limited?

You may have seen this elsewhere already – credit where credit’s due, the News Shopper has made a decent fist of covering the cuts in Greenwich here and here, actually – but if not, then here’s what the new blog from campaigning group Greenwich Save Our Services (essentially members of the Unite union and The Socialist Party) is saying…

Greenwich Council recently agreed to begin making £27m of cuts as part of a cuts package that could eventually top £90m. What Councillors failed to mention was that the Directorate of Culture and Community Services is to be disbanded and that services such as libraries will be transferred out of the Council. While no firm proposals have emerged yet, the options include setting up a “trust”, transferring to an established trust or to charities. Their is a real danger to the library services as a result. Previous attempts to cut libraries have been met with huge opposition. When previous plans to close libraries were leaked, the Council were forced into a u-turn following a union led campaign.

This is intriguing because there’s a precedent for this – in the early 1990s, faced with ratecapping, Greenwich spun off its leisure centres into a social enterprise called Greenwich Leisure Limited. Now GLL runs leisure centres across London and beyond, and from a business perspective has become a roaring success.

So could we see a Greenwich Libraries Limited taking on libraries in the borough, and maybe beyond? A pan-London library card to match the pan-London leisure card GLL could offer? What would this mean for quieter libraries? It’s an interesting possibility – but clearly staff will be concerned about leaving the protective umbrella of council employment. Greenwich Council hasn’t commented on the claim, but it’s one to watch.

Meanwhile, former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Webbewood suggests his own cut – Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts could trim his salary.

UPDATE 12.45PM: looks at the steep rises in car parking charges due in SE10, which will also affect drivers in Blackheath, Charlton, Woolwich and Eltham.


  1. Although Greenwich Council may be legally able to transfer Library assets to a Trust, they have legal responsibility for ensuring the provision of a public library service that is “free” “comprehensive and efficient”. This is their obligation under the 1964 Public Libraries Act. They cannot simply wash their hands of this responsibility in the way that they have been able to with leisure centres.

    The effect of the Act is that Greenwich Council have to ensure that libraries remain free to use, are properly funded, efficiently run and that a comprehensive service is provided throughout Greenwich.

    The residents of Greenwich should make sure that they don’t allow their public libraries to be bounced out of public ownership by default.

  2. I agree with you Martyn technically local authorities have statutory responsibilities under the 1964 Act but unfortunately, as was done with the ‘Library Standards’, they are being sidelined and conveniently forgotten! You even have the LGA claiming that councils do not have a statutory obligation and at the same time the MLA was defending closures and cuts!
    The library profession wont save libraries the main thrust has to come from library users and campaigners, as it already has in Lewisham etc

  3. […] UNISON, 40 FTE to go says council, inc 36 managers cut to 9, 3.5 FTE librarian posts cut (to 10) Greenwich – (could be turned into a Trust) (school library service closed) Hammersmith and Fulham – 2 […]

  4. […] Tonight, Greenwich Council’s cabinet will vote to hive off its library service to Greenwich Leisure Limited. If you’ve no Valentine’s Day date, you could always pop along to watch proceedings (7pm, Woolwich Town Hall). Don’t go expecting heated debate or considered arguments, though – this is a decision that Greenwich resolved to come to long ago. […]

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