CABINET MEETING ON LIBRARIES REPEATED “USUAL DODGY ASSERTIONS” SAY CAMPAIGNERS
A SECOND Lambeth council cabinet meeting on libraries repeated the “usual dodgy assertions” on its plans – with NO answers, say campaigners.
Friends of Lambeth Libraries have issued the following statement in the wake of Monday’s meeting:
Democracy Lambeth-style had another outing at the Cabinet meeting on Monday December 7.
Library campaigners were baffled to learn that they could not speak at all – not even a rapid three-minute gabble, which is the best they normally get.
It wasn’t that kind of meeting, said council leader Lib Peck: “I am not just being bloody minded in refusing your request but I am sticking to an agreed process.”
It was to be a councillor-to-councillor-only exchange. Cabinet was responding to serious questions raised by the overview & scrutiny committee (OSC) … although it was using a script prepared by the very officers who drew up the disastrous gyms-in-libraries plan!
Unsurprisingly, the script repeated the usual dodgy assertions that campaigners have challenged again and again – with no answer.
They were reduced to shouting in protest at each one.
First up was the customary shroud-waving about brutal cuts from central government.
Campaigners would be very sympathetic to this – except that destroying libraries will cost millions more than preserving them.
Then to the OSC’s questions.
Four covered the huge flaws in the current plan –
– the damage that losing proper, staffed libraries will do to a long list of vulnerable people;
– the total lack of information about what people will get instead;
– the inevitable loss of internet access;
– the strange deal with GLL, and the need to have an early ‘break clause’ to escape likely disaster.
The officers’ script on all these amounted to: “We have no answer to any of these questions. But we’ll … er… bear them in mind. With luck we can fob you off until it’s too late to change anything.”
Amazingly, the councillors swallowed all this.
True, Lib Peck and OSC Chair Ed Davie both voiced disquiet at the amazing fact that not a thing has yet been done to plan what the dreaded “healthy living centres” will consist of.
“It’s detailed and complex work… difficult buildings… planning considerations,” waffled officer Adrian Smith.
“So don’t do it!” screamed the audience.
True, Cabinet did jib a bit. Cllr Jane Pickard pointed out that vulnerable children need more study spaces, not fewer.
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, architect of the library destruction plan, piped up that internet access could be opened up in other places such as schools.
And how will that be organised, staffed and paid for, Jane?
Ed Davie said he was “a little bit disappointed” that alternative plans had not been developed sooner. In particular, the trust proposed by library managers, a model that works well elsewhere.
Adrian Smith reached peak waffle. Furious shouts from the audience greeted each dodgy point.
The library managers’ plan was not detailed enough. It didn’t say how it would make savings. It would take 12-18 months to set up.
None of this is true.
Everyone knew it except the councillors.
Everyone – except the councillors – wants to know why officers ignored the managers’ plan when it was offered in April, and why its very existence has been concealed until recently.
Still, maybe there’s hope. Thanks to OSC, the library managers have been given a bare month to work up a better plan. It has to be within the “financial envelope”, warned Lib Peck.
Well, that may not too hard.
The current plan does not make the savings required. It commits Lambeth to heavy extra expenditure. Work hasn’t even started on the bizarre GLL contract – or on wrecking those “difficult buildings”. And the whole thing lacks all the details the managers’ plan was accused of lacking.
The bigger problem is – will Lambeth councillors listen?
Campaigners will just have to go on shouting. (Source: Friends of Lambeth Libraries)
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