Havering Council has launched two consultations asking residents to share their views on the way the borough’s libraries and children’s centres services should be delivered in the future. Havering’s leader, Councillor Damian White, has vowed that although the consultations will look at how the services are delivered, no services or activities currently available at libraries or children’s centres will be lost to the communities they serve today.
The Council has also begun a consultation exercise aimed at identifying whether there is an appetite in Havering to explore whether so-called ‘community hubs’ – local places at the heart of communities, offering and hosting a wide range of services, public events and activities, and spaces to meet friends and contribute to community life – could work in Havering.
The consultation will close on Wednesday, 18 September. The consultation paper and the online survey is athttps://consultation.havering.gov.uk/communications/haveringfrontdoors Public meetings will be held at every library and children’s centre to discuss the proposals with residents and service users (schedule of meetings below).
During the consultation, which starts today, residents will be asked to consider a proposal to keep all ten of the borough’s libraries open as part of the statutory library service, but five of these libraries – Collier Row, Elm Park, Gidea Park, Harold Wood and South Hornchurch, would become council-supported but community-run libraries.
Those libraries would be run on a day-to-day basis by community groups if such groups can be identified but would remain in current library buildings and still benefit from a range of financial and strategic support from the Council, including:
- Provision of rent-free library space and maintenance
- Payment of a small annual sum to community groups to assist with the cost of running the building
- Provision of book stock
- Provision of internet connection and PCs
- Support and advice from library staff about reader development, events management, other technical issues
This way of working has proven important in protecting library services in other parts of the country. The Council’s consultation will also involve holding workshops for interested people, groups and voluntary organisations to identify capacity to deliver community-run libraries.
The consultation does not propose to stop any children’s centre activities or services but looks at running them from different community venues such as schools, early years’ settings, community spaces as well as the three current largest children’s centres in the borough. This would enable key services to better reach the borough’s most vulnerable families.
Under the proposal, the centres that will remain would be St Kilda’s, Collier Row and Elm Park, meaning a children’s centre in each area (north, south and central) of the borough. The plans would see these centres coordinate activities for children and parents in the rest of our communities.
Services currently run from the below centres would be moved to other venues:
- Chippenham Road
- Rainham Village
As part of these consultations, the Council is also asking the community to come forward with ideas and views about ‘community hubs’. The consultation asks how groups and individuals can run the hubs and where they should be.
Councillor Damian White, Leader of Havering Council, said: “We are absolutely committed to protecting our community services and the benefits that our children’s centres and libraries provide. This consultation reflects that while proposing changes that take into account the different ways local people are using these services.
“This is about how we use buildings, not whether cherished services delivering fantastic outcomes across our borough should continue. Our commitment is that no service will stop and no activities lost that are currently provided at your library or children’s centre, whether that’s breastfeeding advice or a ‘knit and natter’ session.”
Public meetings will be held at every library and children’s centre to discuss the proposals with residents and service users (schedule of meetings below).