LAMBETH LIBRARIES: “THEY DON’T CARE WHAT THEY’RE DOING” – ANGER OVER LAST NIGHT’S COUNCIL VOTE
LAMBETH’S LABOUR councillors defied the will of the people last night (Wednesday) and voted to turn three of the borough’s 10 libraries into paid-for gyms.
The decision also means – at the moment – that Upper Norwood joint library will have a budget of just £120,000 for the financial year beginning next April.
Upper Norwood – along with the Carnegie at Herne Hill; Tate South Lambeth; the Minet at Brixton which houses the borough archives and Waterloo – in a new borrowed venue – will become ‘neighbourhood libraries’.
The Carnegie; Tate South Lambeth and Minet will become glorified gyms.
The vote – only the two Tories present and the Green party councilor were against it – came despite a raft of petitions bearing more than 10,000 signatures opposing their plans – including one of 1,725 from Upper Norwood library users – being handed in at last night’s meeting at Elmgreen school in West Norwood.
Labour councillors were clearly under a ‘three-line whip’ to vote in favour of the plans – despite the news that three Lambeth Labour ward parties have voted against them.
The councillors heard from Laura Swaffield, who chairs Friends of Lambeth Libraries. She was accompanied to the podium by Jeff Doorn, chairman of Friends of Carnegie library; Robbie Gibson of the Upper Norwood library campaign; Helen Holmes of the Friends of Tate South Lambeth and three others.
She said demand for libraries was rocketing – and that 10 proper libraries was an absolute minimum . “The big libraries are packed out. “The public reaction as you might have noticed is outrage throughout the borough.”
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods whose remit includes libraries, rising to reply was booed amid chants of ‘Resign!, resign!’ and “Listen to the people.”.
IN A STATEMENT issued this morning (Thursday) – headed “Clueless Lambeth determined to hurt vulnerable residents” – Friends of Lambeth Libraries said Lambeth council have no answer at all to mounting criticisms of its “disastrous” libraries policy.
“But it is still forcing it through, despite universal condemnation.” Friends of Lambeth Libraries (FOLL) say:
- Wrecking the much-used library service will hurt the vulnerable residents that Lambeth has a legal duty to protect – as Lambeth itself admits.
- The crazy put-GLL-gyms-in-libraries idea* will NOT make the £800,000 savings required. At most it will save £485,000.
- A plan from the library managers would keep all 10 libraries running, as people want, AND save £800,000 – or more.
- This plan was never investigated. Its existence has been concealed.
- The GLL deal, put together in secret, splashes £4m on installing gyms that nobody wants or needs.
- The deal puts all financial risks on to Lambeth, while GLL takes any profits.
- GLL also gets valuable buildings at a peppercorn rent – buildings gifted to the borough to be used as libraries.
- The GLL deal has no business plan, no market research – not even a basic feasibility study.
FOLL’s Laura Swaffield says: ‘At the council meeting last night cabinet member Jane Edbrooke made not the slightest attempt to answer any of the points we made. “It was an embarrassing sight.
‘She just mumbled her usual spiel about the horrid government and Lambeth’s cleverness – she does it faster every time. “It’s become inaudible.
‘But that doesn’t matter to Labour councillors. “They vote the way they’re told. “They don’t care what they are doing.
‘”As usual, the meeting was packed with angry protesters – another 50 were shut out. “It’s frankly a scandal.’
* “Lambeth plans to reduce five of its 10 libraries to a fraction of their current size, with no onsite staff to help people – or safeguard children” say FOLL. “Three of these libraries will be swamped by a fee-charging gym. “Lambeth is already over- provided with gyms.”