Million-pound cuts to Sutton’s library services are on their way, with centres facing the axe or having their services scaled back, or being paired with neighbouring boroughs.

Sutton Council must slash £1m from its £4.4m library budget and councillors will face off over the cutbacks tonight, September 17.

Council leader Ruth Dombey blamed “unprecedented cuts to local authority budgets by the Government”, which will see the council save £74m from its budget by 2019.

Diana Gerald, chief executive of reading charity the Book Trust, said: “Well-resourced libraries remain a gateway to equality of educational achievement and are an affordable source of great pleasure for those who could not otherwise afford to read well, and often.

“Reading helps close the poverty gap and is actually more important for a child’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.”

Councillor Dombey added: “With £31m left to save from our annual budget it is clear that the relationship between the council and residents will have to change as some services change or stop in order to make the most of the money we have.”

Options include closing Beddington library, which the council said has seen “a low and diminishing usage”; ending the mobile library service; paring back opening hours; and recruiting volunteers instead of paid staff.

Services could be privatised, as has happened in Croydon and Wandsworth.

Conservative opposition leader Coun Tim Crowley said: “Libraries are one of the council’s priorities and some of my constituents depend on the mobile library service for their entertainment and leisure.

“I know libraries and how they function is changing and for many young people that’s fine, but for older people who live alone this will be a massive blow for them.

“It feels like they are kicking them in the teeth.”

But challenged as to whether Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne should share any of the blame, he said: “What we have now was agreed by both the Liberal Democrats and us during the last coalition.

“This council will blame anybody but themselves and this case is no different.”

  • To join the debate visit the civic offices in St Nicholas Way from 7.30pm tonight.