“GREENWICH LEISURE PROPOSAL THE MOST CREDIBLE” – astonishing claim from Labour council leader
An exchange of emails between a libraries supporter – Christine and Martin Keiffer – and Lambeth Labour council leader Lib Peck – has been released by the Friends of Lambeth Libraries.
LIB PECK’S EMAIL IN FULL:
Dear Christine, Thank you very much for your email.
Please be assured that I am fully aware and appreciative of the role that libraries play within society and specifically within Lambeth, where space is very often at a premium and young people in particular look for a quiet room to complete their studies.
Last year the council ran a wide-ranging consultation on the future of our cultural services, welcoming all options on how we could maintain the best possible service for all our libraries.
In light of the harsh cuts imposed by a Tory Government, councils are facing tough choices over how to prioritise their spending.
Within this difficult financial position, the proposal we put to local people retained our popular and most-used town centre libraries, with increased opening hours and full time professional library staff. Lambeth’s town centre libraries are the most popular, accounting for over three quarters of all library visits.
We’re proud to have invested in our local libraries. Under Labour we opened the new Clapham Library in 2012, competed a £1.4m renovation of Streatham Library in 2014 and we are currently working on a deal to bring a new library to Norwood.
But with a 56 per cent cut in our funding from Government, there are no easy choices. The consultation therefore originally proposed to withdraw services from our neighbourhood libraries and sell Waterloo and Minet libraries in order to reinvest that money into safeguarding our libraries for the future.
We have listened and carefully reviewed all of the options that came forward. The most credible proposal that came forward was from Greenwich Leisure Limited.
We are keen to keep our libraries open and playing a full part in the local neighbourhood. In order to do this we are working through the GLL proposal in more detail, as well as giving detailed consideration to an updated proposal for a staff mutual. This proposal, which the Cabinet agreed to consider, was a recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and will be examined by a team including an independent expert in staff mutuals.
CHRISTINE KEIFFER’S REPLY:
Dear Cllr Peck
Thank you for your email. Whilst I understand the financial constraints the Council is operating under, mention of them is not particularly relevant in the light of the comments I made to you in connection with the proposed library closures. My email was solely about the relative merits of the (poor) proposal to hand some library buildings over to GLL and to curtail library services in those areas and the (much better) proposal to keep all the present libraries open and offer a full library service.
I would also take some issue with the decision to retain only the town centre libraries. The neighbourhood libraries, embedded as they are in their local communities, are far better placed to serve the more disadvantaged of the borough’s residents and a decision to remove such a valuable community resource is a matter of significant concern. I also note that LBL have assured community groups that they will be able to “rent” space in the new healthy living centres.
However, the libraries often make space available without charge – very important for small and financially challenged groups. I am concerned that the transfer of the local library buildings to GLL will lead to community groups being priced out of the centres – as happened at Union Road.
It seems to me that the mutual proposal is so much better a fit with the needs of the local communities and needs to be given very serious consideration as it avoids all the flaws of the GLL model.
Kind regards Christine Keiffer
The original email from Christine to Lib Peck reads as follows:
I am writing to you in advance of the Council Meeting on Wednesday to express my concern at the proposals to close 5 libraries and to convert some of those into Healthy Living Centres with unstaffed book exchanges. I have reviewed both the Council’s own proposals and the alternative proposal for a staff and community mutual and consider the latter to be a far better proposal both in terms of the library service and in terms of financial viability.
I find it very disheartening that a “co-operative” Labour run council should refuse to give serious consideration to the mutual proposal. Not only does it make better financial sense for the Council, it also fits neatly with the ethos of community and council working together. It would also save five valuable community resources which do much for your poorest and most disadvantaged residents. The founding fathers of the Labour Party must be turning in their graves.
(Note: News From Crystal Palace have put some lines in these emails into bold type