PETITIONERS are pleading with residents to “say it now or lose it” as Borehamwood Library faces a 40 per cent cut in opening times.

Proposals by Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), which are currently out for public consultation, suggest a 30 per cent reduction in all library hours across the region, as part of austerity measures ushered in by the coalition government's comprehensive spending review.

However local residents Graham Taylor, chair of governors at Hertswood School, and Lousie Aldridge, of Cardinal Avenue, have said the library in Elstree Way is taking “by far the greatest reduction”.

Mr Taylor said: “Hertsmere seems to be getting the thin end of the wedge and that is the concerning thing.

“One recognises there needs to be savings but they should be fair and equitable and they don't appear to be. That's the key thing for Borehamwood.”

If changes proposed by County Hall's community safety and culture panel are passed as they are, Hertsmere stands to be the second worse hit borough in the county, with Borehamwood Library and Oakmere Library in Potters Bar suffering major cuts.

The petitioners have criticised the cabinet papers for a lack of transparency and having a “crude” criteria for determining the new opening times.

Mr Taylor said: “It's difficult to understand the rationale why some are cut more than others. And they say they haven't taken account of usage, but why not?”

Mrs Aldridge added: “They were suggesting that we come up with alternative proposals without finding what the usage figures are, how can you come up with any workable proposals?

“Borehamwood may not be used as much as Radlett, we don't know. But they obviously do. They need to be transparent and have all this out.

“If they could prove to you that the figures show that people aren't using Borehamwood library, you would say fair enough.”

Mr Taylor said he believed the report must have made use of further criteria because there is “such a disparity between the 20 per cent reduction in some areas and the 40 per cent reductions in others”.

The pair of petitioners have called on local Hertsmere councillors to voice opinions and challenge their Hertfordshire colleagues on why there is such a difference.

They also criticised County Hall for a “rush to cut” and not looking at alternatives like increasing fees or generating revenue through a cafe.

Leader of Hertsmere and county councillor, Morris Bright, has so far been the most vocal on the subject, proposing a volunteer system to solve the issue.

Councillor Bright said: “I am also concerned about the potential reduction in the number of hours for our libraries, but I understand county needs to cut its budget across the board.

“I am suggesting that they allow local volunteers to help with library hours to see if we can keep our service open longer than county is suggesting, and I would be happy to speak with county officers about this idea.”

Mr Taylor reinforced why the library is so important to Borehamwood, focusing on literacy levels in the area.

Mr Taylor said: “One would have thought that in areas where literacy isn't as good as it should be you would want libraries open more.

“All the schools in Borehamwood signed up to a literary strategy last July, to try and improve reading and writing because it was recognised that it wasn't good enough. This won't help, reducing times that kids can go in and get the books they want.”

Mr Taylor and Mrs Aldridge handed a copy of their petition to Hertsmere MP James Clappison last Friday.

James Clappison said: “I am aware that local authorities have to make economy savings as a result of the country's financial situation, but I hope see a consultation that keeps changes to a minimum, and which inconveniences local people as little as possible. I am contacting Hertfordshire County Council to raise my constituents' concerns.”

The public consultation period ends on December 11 and the petitioners are urging people to fill in a comments card at the library or go online to register their views.

Mr Taylor said: “There is a concern that often in these cases those who shout the loudest get the best out of it. If other libraries and areas are more organised they may have a couple of hundred comments and that will look quite impressive.

“It's a bit of a crude system, but we need to encourage people before the closing date to pick up one of the cards in the library or go online.

“Say it now or lose it.”

For a full list of the proposed hour changes see Herts Direct and to leave comments visit the Herts Library website