LEGALITY OF LAMBETH’S ‘HEALTHY LIVING CENTRES’ PLANS CHALLENGED AT CABINET MEETING – “Nobody in the UK has ever tried such a mad scheme.”
THE LEGALITY of Lambeth’s plans to turn three libraries into ‘healthy living centres’ has been challenged at a council cabinet meeting.
Helen Holmes of the Friends of Tate South Lambeth – one of the three libraries which face having gyms installed in them – asked:
Was the contract which would allow Greenwich Leisure to run Tate South Lambeth (Oval); Carnegie (Herne Hill) and Minet (Brixton) put out to tender as advised by current Government and EU regulations?.
Her question came as she challenged the cabinet on five main points: cultural activities; alternative proposals for library services in Lambeth; status of library buildings; interim library plans and external contractors at the meeting, held in the drama hall of Dunraven school, Leigham Court Road, Streatham
“There is an alternative proposal for library services to be provided in Lambeth. “It will retain existing staff levels, enhanced services, and operate within the proposed reduced budget levels for both 2016 and 2020. “What is the council’s objection to them?”
And pursuing a point raised by The Friends of Lambeth Libraries at the council presentation on October 2nd she added: “We challenge the council’s legal authority to change the use of the gifted library buildings.”
Senior councilors approved the package despite hearing speaker after speaker from across the borough line up to tell them why – and how – the various schemes being lined up were wrong.
The meeting heard:
- calls NOT to implement plans by Greenwich Leisure to turn three of the libraries – Carnegie, Herne Hill; Minet, Brixton and Tate South Lambeth, Oval into healthy living centres until proper consultation had taken place
- impassioned pleas on behalf of Upper Norwood joint library – which would also become a neighbourhood library under the proposals – but not include gym equipment
- and support for Waterloo library – which Lambeth want to close and move into a Christian charity building in what the meeting heard was a predominantly Moslem area
The meeting was interrupted by constant heckling from the audience at the meeting, held in the drama hall at Dunraven school on Leigham Court Road in Streatham – and even noisier interruptions from some people outside. Among the comments made during the meeting were:
UNISON REP TIM O’DELL:
“We don’t see the logic in swapping libraries for gyms. “You’re selling off land for 25 years.” ( a claim denied by councilors) . He said there would be “umpteen legal challenges” coming.
Proposals had been brought forward by Greenwich Leisure (GLL) to benefit GLL in a lack of imagination on Lambeth’s part.
“And we don’t accept the people of Waterloo would rather go to a Christian centre where the biggest Moslem community in Lambeth resides. “I’m glad Cllr Edbrooke said she would save the toilet . “I hope you’ll flush this proposal down it.”
LAURA SWAFFIELD, FRIENDS OF LAMBETH LIBRARIES:
“We know you are suffering horrendous cuts. “So why are you splashing out millions of pounds on a daft scheme that’s generous to GLL and a body blow to your residents – especially the vulnerable ones?” (Applause).
“What you’ve got is a library service that is nationally recognised, puts on a large range of activities and is run on peanuts.”
Referring to the plans by GLL she declared: “Nobody in the UK has ever tried such a mad scheme.” (Loud banging by protesters outside made it impossible to hear what Laura Swaffield then added.)
“The area is already knee-deep in gyms. “There’s one at Brockwell lido, one at James Allen’s girls school. “The whole idea of GLL looks odd to me.”
COLETTE THOMAS, FRIENDS OF LAMBETH PARKS FORUM
“The whole exercise throughout the year has been handled with little consultation. “We regard this….. (THUMP THUMP THUMP)
“We ask you to defer any decision on parks until an official review is held towards the end of the year when we know what will happen to the garden maintenance contract.
RESPONDING, officers were satisfied matters would stand up to a legal challenge. Laura Swaffield then stood up and asked – to applause – “I asked why is Lambeth throwing millions at GLL?”
Adrian Smith, for Lambeth council, said there would be a £1 million reduction to the management fee payable to GLL which would be recycled back into the programme.
Council leader Cllr Lib Peck said the Lambeth Mutual plan had not been rejected but the report made it clear no detailed case had yet been presented. Any proposals had to be financially viable.
Cllr Jane Edbrooke said the contract was for seven years with a break clause.
Editor’s note: Page 54 12.3 The report states: “The Lambeth Cultural Board (and subsequently the Lambeth Cultural Trust if constituted) will be leased three buildings on a 25-year peppercorn rent with a break clause in 2022.”