“NO MONEY IN BUDGET TO RE-OPEN CARNEGIE AND MINET”
THE CARNEGIE library at Herne Hill and the Minet library in Brixton cannot be re-opened because the money has been taken out of the budget – that was the message to library campaigners at Wednesday night’s Lambeth council meeting.
Cllr Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for regeneration, business and culture, was responding to a deputation led by Laura Swaffield, who chairs Friends of Lambeth Libraries asking for the libraries to re-open in time for the school holidays.
Revenue savings of £290,000 would save across both sites for a single year and they would get building (Greenwich Leisure want to install a gym in the basement of the Carnegie) as soon as they could.
He said he had appreciated the constructive conversation with Laura Swaffield and other library representatives on Monday and was happ[y to continue to engage on a regular basis
Laura Swaffield had told councillors: “At the last council meeting on 18th May, we tried to tell you there was a crisis in libraries. “Now it’s worse.
“Today we have a simple idea that won’t cost you a penny and will save you a fortune: Just re-open the Carnegie & Minet libraries. “We will thank you for it
“As of May 18th you had spent about £42,500 on security for closing the two libraries. “That wasn’t because the Carnegie was occupied. “It’s normal sensible practice if you keep valuable buildings empty.
“Two months on, the total bill has risen by something like £6,000 a week
“Freedom of Information answers vary. “Sometimes it has been £16,000 a week. “A conservative estimate gives us a total of £82k down the drain. “It could be anything up to £90k.
“That’s two or three times more than it cost to run a full service for both libraries, for a whole year.
“Closing them had not saved a penny. “The building are still there, paying rates, the library staff are still on the payroll, security staff are using heating and lights all night.
“All that money is being taken from other budgets.”
Laura said that since May 18th there has been flood damage and mould and constant delays in opening the archives at the Minet because the guards there can’t seem to look after things as the staff always did.
“Carnegie was the busiest children’s library in the whole borough. “Usage was rocketing.
“Both libraries were closed at exam time, causing severe over-crowding at other libraries in Lambeth and also in Southwark. “There were students queuing up for PCs, trying to study all over the floor. “We expect the same if the libraries are still closed when the schools break up.
“Local children will also miss out on the hugely popular Summer Reading Challenge scheme, which is proved to prevent the decline in reading skills that happens over the summer.
“That’s just the children. “Many users are struggling to find anywhere to go. “So are the groups for priority people such as children, adults with literacy problems. “One has had to go as far as Streatham.
“The businesses which paid good money to rent space at the Carnegie have gone, and some still have nowhere to go.
“Meanwhile the timeline is stretching way beyond what the council anticipated. “These deprived communities will have had no provision at all for well over a year, even on the most optimistic view – and what will the security bill have gone up to?
“As for plans to re-open the two libraries with gyms that nobody wants, we now know that even basic thinking can’t start until after September, when the report comes out about the future of the archives at Minet and Greenwich Leisure may be applying for planning permission for the Carnegie.
“At the exhibition about Carnegie in June, we couldn’t get answers to the simplest questions about what’s going to be provided, how it will be managed, how it will work financially.
“If a plan does emerge, nothing can get started without extensive building work, costing millions.
“Meanwhile the council is depriving an already deprived area, it’s not saving any money at all and it’s spending a fortune on security.
“We have always wanted to work WITH the council. “This is a real chance to start doing that. “It’s a complete win-win, for you & for local people. “So let’s do it.”
IN A STATEMENT issued after Wednesday night’s meeting FOLL said “Lambeth council reached a new low at its meeting last night (13 July). “Having heard that its disastrous library closures are costing far more than keeping them open, libraries supremo Jack Hopkins announced that it is ploughing right on, spending more and more while its crazed idea to turn them into fee-charging gyms gets nowhere.
“Lambeth is just determined to go on making a fool of itself. And it seems there’s no limit to the amount of tax-payers’ money it will spend on doing it.”