There is growing support with Lambeth Labour Parties for saving the Libraries.
Herne Hill and Thurlow Park Ward Labour Parties passed the following resolution.
‘Lambeth Council has recently announced plans for how it intends to continue to provide library services despite the cuts to the cultural services budget. The Council has announced an agreement with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) concerning Tate South Lambeth, Carnegie and Minet libraries. The agreement states ‘GLL will take over the running of three of our [other] smaller libraries, running gyms from them alongside lending services.
This ward calls on Lambeth Council to:
- reverse their decision to enter into agreement with GLL
- focus its resource on developing the proposals suggested by Lambeth Head of Libraries Susanna Barnes.
- launch an appeal to the wider community to contribute further proposals regarding the running of the library service.
- take all proposals received to public consultation as soon as possible.
- make sure mechanisms are in place to ensure the continuation of the borough’s library services after 1st April 2016.’
Dulwich and West Norwood Constituency Labour Party General Committee has now backed the resolution. The proposer at its meeting described the financial advantages of head of libraries Susanna Barnes’s plan to keep all Lambeth’s 10 libraries full-sized and fully-staffed, making the same savings as the universally hated libraries-into-gyms plan.
Jeff Doorn, chair of Friends of Carnegie Library points out that Lambeth’s hated libraries plan can be expected to harm Labour at:
- The GLA and Mayoral election, because Labour Lambeth would close five libraries on 31st March.2. The Council elections due in May 2018, because it would then be apparent that Lambeth had wasted over £4 million converting three of the buildings, including the Carnegie’s, from libraries and subsidising their use even though Lambeth did not know what that use would be and there was no significant demand for the possible uses suggested, that is, as gyms or church hall type accommodation for hiring out. The cost of the three libraries totals less than £500,000
3. The General Election due in 2020, because the three buildings would be required to break even by the 2018/19 financial year, which is not a realistic prospect. They would be closed and put up for sale, with the proceeds to be
spent on matters unrelated to libraries despite the buildings having been donated for use as libraries. Moreover, since large sums would have been spent on the conversion works without any tendering process, there would almost certainly be allegations of corruption in circulation.
The Barnes Plan
The Barnes Plan for a mutual to run libraries can be seen here:
Laura Swaffield, Chair of the Friends of Lambeth Libraries, says that the Barnes plan avoids:
- Massive staff redundancies (25%)
- Five out of 10 libraries reduced to a small ‘lounge’ with few books or PCs
- The same five libraries to have NO staff at all to help people
- Consequent serious harm to vulnerable groups including: small children, families, schoolkids and students, old people, disabled people, women, BME communities, people on low incomes, benefits claimants, and more.
- Extra pressure on council services from those deprived of help and advice.
- Heavy expenditure on unwanted gyms (£3m capital, £1m+ revenue
- Long closures while the gyms are installed
- Elaborate mish-mash of up to five different trusts to run just 10 buildings – including handing valuable buildings to GLL at a peppercorn rent, already recognised as a financial risk to the council.
- Very, very unpopular – as shown in demonstrations by hundreds of people, and over 10,000 signatures on petitions.
It saves a hugely useful services:
- It keeps all 10 badly-needed libraries
- It provides longer opening hours at all of them
- It maintains Lambeth’s nationally famous, ground-breaking access service for people with sight problems or dyslexia – this won’t survive in the GLL plan
- It introduces a much-needed schools library service
- It develops a range of new, innovative specialist services
including a computer design ‘fab lab’, extra support for unemployed people, business support, even more healthy living advice/activities – and more
- It focuses clearly on Lambeth residents’ real needs and the council’s priorities, including: mental health, unemployment, poor IT skills and access, poverty, poor housing, social cohesion.