THE closure of multiple Royal Borough libraries could become a reality as cabinet members agree to launch a public consultation on the proposal.

As part of the council needing to make essential savings and for cabinet to deliver their transformation strategy – which would supposedly help build a ‘community centric borough of opportunity and innovation’ – leading Conservative councillors agreed to engage with the public and stakeholders over the possible library closures.

The four libraries in danger of shutting down are Boyn Grove, Old Windsor, Datchet, and Sunninghill.

Library services will be swapped to a 24/7 ‘digital offer’ for more people across the borough to access via computers, laptops, iPad, etc.

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Councillor Andrew Johnson (Conservative: Hurley & Walthams), leader of the council, praised the library transformation as ‘creative thinking’ to keep the services relevant without losing sight of its core principles, fundamentals, and values.

The lead member for resident and leisure services, councillor Samantha Rayner (Conservative: Eton & Castle) acknowledged not everyone will be digital – but said they will be “mindful and cater for everyone”.

The council predicts these closures will deliver over £290,000 in savings by April 2022.

Boyn Hill Library

Boyn Hill Library

The leader of the opposing Liberal Democrats, councillor Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green), urged cabinet members not to “destroy” the library services, slamming the word transform as a “spin” for cuts.

He said: “Transformation is actually about closures and cuts. It was called ‘agile’, it’s not ‘agile’ it’s devastating.

“How can they continue as the heart of the community if you’re closing them? At the end of the day, Cllr Rayner, it’s your cabinet, you, that’s deciding to close them.”

He added: “We shouldn’t be closing libraries in these areas, we should be promoting them and finding ways to find even more people across the threshold because kids growing up in deprived areas the library might just represent their best chance of a route out of poverty.”

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Cllr Rayner responded: “The scare stories that you are putting wide is untrue and I think that our library service is incredibly robust.

“The transformation that’s already gone through is amazing and closing libraries is not an easy thing to do and it’s something I don’t want to have to do – but we have a collective responsibility to deliver a balanced budget for our residents.”

According to the report, the Royal Borough’s libraries had almost a million visits and over 700,000 loans in 2019-20.

The 12-week public consultation will take place on February 10 and the outcome will be reviewed on April 29.

Following September’s public consultation, cabinet members agreed to alter a majority of libraries opening hours as well as closing most of them on Sundays.

This reduction in library opening hours consultation was approved in last year’s budget in order to save £145,000.

This was approved at a cabinet meeting on January 28 (Thursday).