Regrettably all Lewisham libraries have been closed early today as a precautionary measure following today’s Mayor and Cabinet meeting.

Whilst we respect people’s right to protest peacefully, we cannot justify the potential financial cost or risk to public health and safety or property that could be incurred should protesters target Lewisham libraries.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause library users and we will resume our usual library opening hours as soon as possible.

The government’s new “work programme” will actually help fewer people than the existing schemes that ministers are scrapping, the BBC has learned.

David Cameron has described the plan as the “biggest and boldest” push to get people on benefits back to work.

But officials have said they expect 605,000 people to go through the scheme in 2011-12 and 565,000 in 2012-13.

About 850,000 people went through the last government’s schemes in 2009-10 which are now being scrapped.

A package of £60m cuts over 12 months has been backed by Norfolk County Council at a meeting.

Two people were arrested during protests before the meeting in Norwich. It was to begin at 1000 GMT, but was delayed because of hecklers.

It is believed 1,000 people could lose their jobs because of the cuts at the county council.

The council at present employs about 10,000 people, a quarter of them part-time, and spends £600m a year.

The council budget includes a £25m cut to the county’s children’s services, but the council has pledged £21m to keep its community-based children’s centres open.

David Cameron has rejected accusations that his Big Society policy is simply a mask for government spending cuts.

The prime minister said his initiative to give a greater role for community and voluntary groups was intended to change the way the country was run.

Writing in the Observer, he accepted that such organisations might need help in the face of government cuts.

Charity leader Dame Elisabeth Hoodless has said the cuts attacked volunteering and the whole concept of Big Society.

David Cameron has announced a series of measures to help small and medium-sized firms compete for billions of pounds worth of central government contracts.

He said the aim was to give businesses greater access to the bidding process by eliminating “excessive bureaucracy and petty regulation”.

Firms should no longer have to input their information each time they apply for a new contract, for example. Pre-qualification questions for central government contracts under £100,000 will also be eliminated, the Cabinet Office said.

The CBI, however, said the government could have gone much further. “This is a welcome package of measures,” said Susan Anderson, the business body’s director for public services, “but it could be much more radical by opening up all government contracts and public services to a range of innovative and expert providers.”

Birmingham City Council says 7,000 jobs must go in a bid to save £300m.

So far 1,500 staff have requested voluntary redundancy, meaning forced losses will be “significantly reduced,” council officials have said.

Some £212m - 71% of the savings target - will be made in the 12 months from April this year.

The details were revealed by officials and councillors in a briefing document. A final decision will be made in March.

The union Unison described the job losses as “devastating”.

More than 90 prominent Liberal Democrat councillors, including the leaders of 18 local authorities, have criticised the scale and pace of government cuts.

In a letter to the Times, they say cuts will have “an undoubted impact on all front-line council services, including care services to the vulnerable”.

The councillors also say they are being “let down” by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and accuse the government of engaging in “gunboat diplomacy”.

The signatories, who include the leaders of Newcastle, Milton Keynes and Hull city councils, say they are facing the bulk of the cuts to their budgets in the coming financial year, giving them little time “to spread the cost of reorganisation and downsizing”.

An MP has called on the public to be given a much greater say over programmes made by the BBC and salaries paid to top performers and managers.

Conservative Robert Halfon said licence fee payers should be able to elect the chairman of the BBC and its board.

Launching a proposed bill, he said the BBC was a “great British institution” but had “fundamental flaws”.

Mr Halfon’s proposals are included in a ten-minute rule bill which, although it has the backing of a number of other Conservative MPs, are unlikely to become law.

The government says it will increase the levy on banks to £2.5bn this year - raising an extra £800m.

Chancellor George Osborne said the tax was being brought forward before banks announced their bonus payments.

But leaders of the four biggest UK banks were “livid” at the move, said BBC business editor Robert Peston.

A deal with banks to increase business loans and limit bonus payments has not yet been finalised after talks on the wide-ranging Project Merlin stalled.

Leisure centres, libraries and public toilets will close as part of a council’s plan to make nearly £110m of savings in the next financial year.

Manchester City Council also confirmed 2,000 job losses - 17% of its workforce - as it revealed full details of cuts.

Children’s services will be cut by 26%, or £45.1m, but social workers for vulnerable children will be increased, the council said.

All public toilets will close, except those on Mount Street, and swimming pools at Levenshulme and Miles Platting will shut. Free parking on Sundays will end and on-street charging will be extended to 12 hours between from 0700 to 1900.