LIBRARIES “ALREADY HEALTHY LIVING CENTRES”
LIBRARIES are already healthy living centres, Green party Cllr Scott Ainslie told the overview and scrutiny committee meeting.
“They are a massive resource of information, trained advisers, gentle exercise and activities that combat mental ill-health and social isolation” he said.
If the proposals to turn three libraries – the Carnegie at Herne Hill, Tate South Lambeth and the Minet at Brixton where the bulk of the council’s archives are held – into gyms went ahead:
- Unaccompanied children would have to be excluded from unstaffed libraries at all times, for safeguarding reasons
- Gyms run in library buildings would be too noisy to enable quiet study, children’s activities or community groups
- Sweat, steam and showers would endanger the book stock – let alone the archives in the Minet building.He asked if the committee were aware of the risk of legal challenge on numerous grounds, including:
– failure to provide a comprehensive & efficient service under the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act
– failure to consult the public on radically new proposals published on October 2 and rushed through cabinet on October 12
– failure to consider a viable proposal to run all 10 libraries within the required financial constraints, under Draper vs Lincs County Council 2014
– failure to secure best value as required by the Local Government Act 1999?
– failure to comply with the Equalities Act
– failing to take relevant considerations into account and taking irrelevant considerations into account
“The only evidence available is the public consultation on Carnegie library, Easter 2015 by Locality, which said that having a gym as part of the mix ‘was one of the least supported, surpassed in opposition only by the proposal to increase residential use of the building.’
“Who in the cabinet knew about the idea to turn some libraries into gyms/cut provision/cut staff? And when did they know?
“Who in the cabinet consulted with the public, in those 10 days to ascertain the fairness of these 11th hour, rushed through proposals?
“Why was there no public consultation at all on a completely new, radical and (to many) absurd, left-of-field idea to put gyms into our historic public libraries?
“Why does Lambeth think it can proceed when its own Equalities Impact assessment states clearly that: ‘It is not possible to mitigate the impact of the unstaffed neighbourhood libraries on groups of vulnerable people who rely on staff in their local library for support.’
“The vulnerable people specifically listed are: black people, women, pregnant women, single parents, small children, schoolchildren, young people, old people, disabled people, people with sight problems, people on low incomes, people who need internet access to claim benefits and seek jobs, people with poor ICT skills, faith groups, and those with mental health problems or learning difficulties.
“What evidence is there that gyms are of use to any of these groups – especially as libraries are free but the gyms would charge for use?”