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Resident views result in all libraries in Tower Hamlets staying open

Tower Hamlets Council has listened to its residents and has worked hard to keep all of its libraries and Idea Stores open, despite the tough financial climate faced by all local authorities across the country.  

While many councils have been forced to close libraries to balance their books, Tower Hamlets has listened to its residents and put forward a series of new recommendations which will allow all five Idea Stores and two libraries to remain open.  

Members voted unanimously for the revised recommendations at a Cabinet meeting last night (Wednesday, 3 March 2021) which included keeping Cubitt Town Library, Bethnal Green Library and Idea Store Watney Market open five days a week, including a Saturday and a late night at the two libraries. 

More than 800 residents took part in a two-month consultation which asked them to have their say on proposed changes with the backdrop of the library service having to make £1.6millon of savings. It currently costs the council £4.4million a year to run the library service.  

The results of the consultation showed that people felt strongly that instead of closure, some hours should be maintained at Cubitt Town Library and that the proposed changes to opening hours at Idea Store Watney Market and Bethnal Green Library should be increased. 

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I am pleased so many people took part in the consultation and it shows us how much residents appreciate the library service and are passionate about safeguarding these important community facilities. 

We have listened and taken the decision to not close any of our libraries and instead put forward a new model that will maintain an ambitious service while delivering essential savings.” 

Councillor Sabina Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts and Brexit, added: “I attended the focus groups during the consultation and was genuinely moved by how much our residents valued our library service especially the service on offer at Cubitt Town Library and Bethnal Green Library.  

“Our Idea Stores are really well used and much-loved community hubs and we want to make sure we maximise all the resources we have available by offering a revised model that works for all residents.” 

Revised opening hours include: 

  • Cubitt Town Library: Monday – Wednesday from 10am-6pm, Thursday 10am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.
  • Bethnal Green Library: Monday – Wednesday from 10am-6pm, Thursday 10am-8pm and Saturday 9am-5pm.
  • Idea Store Watney Market: the library will be reduced in size from three floors to one floor and open Monday-Thursday from 10am-6pm and Saturday from 9am-5pm.
  • Idea Store Chrisp, Idea Store Bow, Idea Store Whitechapel and Idea Store Canary Wharf – all sites will be kept open seven days a week but Sunday hours will be reduced from six hours to four hours. Staffing level will also be reduced in the evening.

These changes will now provide a saving of £1.2million and will not come into effect immediately due to restrictions around Covid-19. Please check the Idea Store website for full details.


For more information about this release contact the London Borough of Tower Hamlets communications team on 020 7364 4389 or email communications@towerhamlets.gov.uk

The Idea Stores were introduced in 2002, as one of the country’s most advanced library models.  They reinvented the library, returning them to the heart of the community 

The council currently has five Idea Stores: 

  • Idea Store Bow
  • Idea Store Whitechapel 
  • Idea Store Chrisp Street 
  • Idea Store Canary Wharf 
  • Idea Store Watney Market

It also has three libraries. Two libraries (Cubitt Town and Bethnal Green) and a local history library and archive based in Mile End.  



Posted on Thursday 4th March 2021