Bromley library staff lobbied parliament today (February 9) to protest the privatisation of services and plans to replace employees at 14 libraries in the borough with volunteers.

With the support of their union, Unite, Bromley staff are joined in their strike by Greenwich library employees, who are demonstrating against the closure of their mobile library service.

A week of industrial action started on Saturday (February 6), with Bromley Library staff staging a march down the High Street.

Onay Kasab, Unite’s regional officer, said: “What we are hoping to achieve is to get the council to actually listen to their own consultation – they had two, specifically a second one asking people if, in light of recent cuts, they were still not in agreement with the decision – and they still said they were not.”

The second round of consultation took place in September 2015 and asked residents for their views on a so-called commissioned library service.

This would mean the library service would be outsourced to an external provider under the supervision of the council.

Mr Kasab said: “We believe that once the libraries are handed over to others it is not about keeping the service. It will just deteriorate.”

He added there is particular concern about the prospect of staff being replaced with volunteers.

He said: “We won’t get the professionalism with volunteers.

"A lot of time is spent helping with job services and other services which are provided in libraries – not just knowing where the books are on the shelves.”

A Bromley council spokesman said: “We regret that further industrial action is being taken when previous strikes were supported by fewer than four per cent of our workforce.

"In light of this, the council believes the union should respect the workforce and the interests of Bromley residents by putting an immediate end to this strike action.”

He added: “Every service delivery option is considered to ensure we continue to provide the best value for money for Bromley taxpayers as the council has done for many years.

“These options include continuing to provide services in-house or to facilitate social enterprise or outsourcing.

“The council has to identify £50 million savings over the next four years from a net budget of around £199 million so it is inevitable that some services will have to be provided in different ways into the future.”

Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “It needs to be highlighted that local authorities have a statutory obligation to provide comprehensive library services as a quality service for communities.

“National and local politicians see libraries as ‘a soft target’ in this time of austerity, but they could be pushing up against the boundaries of legality if they persist on this course.”

Bromley’s Central Library will be shut until Saturday, February 13.