Lambeth libraries – Frequently asked questions
Update on library culture 2020 non-consultation May 2016
What is happening to Lambeth’s libraries?
We’ve no idea. We were obliged to issue a consultation document called Culture 2020. What a waste of time and money that was. We decided to turn three of the libraries into gyms – which wasn’t mentioned in the consultation – and then the pond life said they would rather have libraries.
Anyway, as we have already said: “The Culture 2020 report which is online is the outcome of that consultation.” So that’s that.
Is it true that Lambeth Council is closing five libraries?
No. we are only closing two. The Waterloo library building will close but move into a Christian building nearby. And by merging the Durning and Tate Lambeth South libraries into one we’ll be closing a second.
Waterloo will not close until June when it will move into the Oasis centre. We won’t be telling you how much rent we’ll be paying or how much keeping the building open beyond the March 31st deadline has cost. And as we have already said:
The library building will become a ‘meanwhile space’ for local arts and social enterprise organisations for the next two years.
How much will this cost? Where’s the money coming from? Why have an arts and social enterprise space for just two years? Who cares? We can’t afford it but it’s all the fault of the Conservative government etc etc.
Minet library: We’re also spending £10,000 a month 24 / 7 on two security guards. And we’ve taken away the library keys from the archives staff. Let’s hope the security guards don’t go on strike!
Upper Norwood joint library: What we said in our March 2016 FAQs was this:
The local community will run the building, expanding its range of uses and the Council is funding computers, wi-fi and book stock.
We didn’t mention library staff. There weren’t going to be any! Thankfully no-one really realised this!! Now there’s going to be just ONE – aren’t we clever?!!! Heaven knows when this was decided. We certainly couldn’t tell you – or where the money for the ‘Upper Norwood One’ (and only) will be coming from.
What about the Carnegie Trust?
What about it? There are five members on the Carnegie Community Trust. Two of them are former Lambeth Labour councillors. The third is the life partner of a former Labour Lambeth council leader named Steve. (Luckily this is not Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North but another former Labour Lambeth council leader Steve Whaley. Otherwise we’d be all over the front page of The Sun.)
As we have already said:
“The council’s worked with the Trust for years and will continue to do so to make sure local people get the best use from the combined services.”
We have completely ignored the Friends of Carnegie library who we don’t want to talk to anyway. They’ll only complain about having a gym in the library. And they might ask us difficult questions like ‘What’s happened to the mobile book stock that’s supposed to be in the basement?’ when we’ve said it’s unused!
Luckily NOBODY knows about the following Lambeth council report:
Disposal of South Island Place and relocation of Libraries services to Carnegie Library
Item 9 Executive 28th July 2003
Report by: Education Directorate (Business Unit – John Readman, Head of Libraries, Archives and Arts)
Executive Summary: South Island Place is a council owned premises in Oval Ward included on the Accelerated Assets Disposal list for 2003/4. The building houses the library service’s Community Services section, which provides the mobile, housebound, and outreach library service.
This service, which includes parking and loading for five vehicles needs to be relocated to Carnegie Library, the only library site capable of absorbing this key service. This will provide the most cost effective operation of both the Community services section and Carnegie Library.
Essential works at the library in order to complete relocation, combined with repairs and some limited improvements to the
public service at Carnegie will cost £250,000. This cost could be met from the sale receipts of South Island Place premises (valued at £650,000) or from the 2003/4 capital receipts pot.
We’ve also just sent a leaflet (dated April 26th) round to people living near the Carnegie. In this we have said:
The Carnegie Community Trust, which has been working on a business plan for the building for a number of years, has submitted an expression of interest for asset transfer. It has also met with the Heritage Lottery Fund to discuss an application to them for funding to renovate the building, which the Council supports. The Friends of Carnegie Library has also indicated an interest in taking over the building. Any bid for an asset transfer will go through a thorough formal process.
And then we’ll probably hand it over to the Carnegie Community Trust anyway.
Have we given money to the Carnegie Community Trust or any of its predecessors? You might think that. We couldn’t possibly comment.
What about book stocks?
We are not reducing the book stock. (Well, except at Upper Norwood joint library where all the books are being removed from the top floor.)
What about the Staff Mutual proposal?
What about it? As we have said:
The idea of a staff mutual was first discussed and encouraged in 2012. The library management expressed an interest in establishing a staff mutual in April 2015 as part of their response to Culture 2020 consultation. This expression of interest was judged as not viable.
We may have decided that in just 24 hours as well – just like the officers review of the People’s Plan for Cressingham Gardens estate.
We also said:
As part of a review by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, they asked if the staff mutual could be considered again. The library management was given a further opportunity to provide an updated proposal in line with the cabinet decision. This was submitted in January 2016.
A panel led by Lambeth council’s Strategic Director for Corporate Resources, who was not involved in the Culture 2020 consultation, including an expert from an independent agency called Mutual Ventures which was involved in setting up a Staff Mutual system for libraries in York, as well as council legal and finance officers evaluated the proposal.
Their assessment found that while the Staff and Community Mutual proposal contained some good proposals for service improvements, there was not a business plan in place that could deliver the significant savings required by 1 April 2016. The proposal did not address in detail questions about the transfer of legal responsibilities, staff terms and conditions or how they could generate more income. It was not a viable plan that could deliver the savings required within the next 12-18 months.
Luckily, with one exception, no-one has really picked up on the Mutual Ventures angle. This is what happened in York with the following, taken from Mutual Ventures own website:
“The staff realised that mutualising could help them move towards a more innovative, responsive and sustainable service. “The Council completed an initial feasibility study which concluded that a community and staff led mutual was the right model for the service and Cabinet Office Mutual Support Programme funding was secured to explore this further. “In February 2013, Mutual Ventures were appointed to test the viability of the proposed new organisation and to assist with the development of their business plan. “The Mutual Ventures team also provided Fiona and her team with guidance on legal form, governance and other legal matters relating to the set-up of the new MSP.
“On 1st May 2014, Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual officially launched!
“Oliver Cappleman, Mutual Ventures Director: ‘I first met Fiona in February 2013 and was impressed by her clear and compelling vision for future of the service. ‘Over the next 15 months we worked closely with Fiona and her team, and key stakeholders within Council, to turn their vision into a robust business plan, and then supported them through the transition phase to enable them to successfully spin-out in May 2014.’
“Fiona Williams, Chief Executive, Explore Libraries and Archives: ‘We couldn’t have got to where we are now without the support from the Mutual Ventures team. ‘At a time of pretty severe financial pressures, they worked with us to develop our services and to ensure our organisation was financially sustainable. ‘They really understood how to introduce commercial rigour into our operation without losing sight of our overarching social focus as a library service. ‘I would be happy to recommend them to anyone looking to put an arts focused organisation on a solid commercial footing’.”
Anyway, they do things different up north.
What are GLL getting out of it and what are they contributing?
As we’ve already said in the March 2016 FAQs:
As the Culture 2020 report states, GLL are facilitating £1million in revenue over two years, and £1m capital towards the fit out of the buildings.
And in the report to the October 12th 2015 cabinet meeting at Dunraven: 4.10 In addition, GLL have agreed with the council to apply £1m of the shared development pot capital balance towards the fit out of the healthy living centre trial.
And in the Overview and Scrutiny committee November 10th 2015 in response to comments by Cllr Scott Ainslie: This £1m of revenue support is derived from Greenwich Leisure Limited agreeing a one off reduction in their management costs that will support the transition costs associated with the delivery stage of the Culture 2020 proposals.
Difference? What difference?
In response to a further comment from Cllr Ainslie (Green party) that:
Three million pounds capital is also to be invested in the health living centres. In contrast to these expenses, the library service proposal for a combined staff and community mutual trust would preserve the present library service and keep within the reduced revenue budget, without major capital expenditure.
We said: This is capital expenditure and cannot be used to fund salary and running costs for any council services. Such an arrangement would not be allowed under local government financial regulations. In short it is illegal. £2m of the capital investment was agreed by council in 2012 as part of a £6m programme of investment in library buildings. The additional £1m capital is derived from an agreement with GLL for the purpose of developing the proposed health living centres.