Community libraries in Bexley could be set to have £50,000 in funding cut as Bexley Council looks to balance its books.

The council’s latest accounts show an £8.8m budget gap for next year, a figure which could increase to £36.6m by 2022 unless the council steps in.

Authorities across the country have been under increasing pressure to balance their books as cash from central government is cut.

One proposal tabled by officers has been to reduce the grant the council gives to six community libraries by 20 per cent, which would save £50,000.

Community libraries differ from council-run libraries, and have benefited from council cash to help them when they transitioned over.

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The money has always been earmarked to be reduced, according to the council, which says the libraries are aware of the situation.

Slade Green councillor Stefano Borella questioned “what impact the proposed cuts would have” on the libraries at a meeting last night.

Cllr Peter Craske, the cabinet member for places, said: “Community libraries are performing really well. With these grants to community libraries, the plan always was to fade them out as it was to help them transition across.”

The council is planning on employing a “bid writer” to identify and apply for extra cash from elsewhere, which Cllr Craske said would help fill the void.

“Part of the bid application role will be to work with those library groups to attract new funding,” the councillor said.

Bexley Civic CentreBexley Civic Centre

“There’s lots of funding out there but it takes the time to track it down and put the proper application out there. There are lots of other funding sources out there.

“The grants were always designed to be reduced. We will be discussing it with the library groups and working it through.”

There are six of these community libraries in the borough, and the council has said it will help them apply for new external grants.

The libraries are in Bexley, Blackfen, North Heath, Upper Belvedere, Bostall, and Slade Green.

According to the draft proposals, which have not been agreed yet, the council will: “Work with community libraries to identify new external grant opportunities; the new bid writer in the community development team will also be available to assist.

“Community-managed libraries may also choose to manage part of the reduced funding through a reduction in book stock purchase – in line with the approach being taken to achieve savings in the core library service.”