OPINION – LAMBETH LIBRARIES: SO MUCH FOR HAVING A CO-OPERATIVE COUNCIL…
When Lambeth council became a co-operative council it was likened to the hugely successful store chain John Lewis which is, effectively, owned by its own staff.
Unfortunately, unlike John Lewis, the people running Lambeth council don’t know what they are doing.
Their finances are, clearly, in an absolute mess.
During last night’s meeting it was revealed that the council’s temporary accommodation budget is overspent by £7 million pounds.
There is also something involving £500 million from sub-contractors. (Lambeth’s own website says it spends £582 million per year on products, services and works.)
They’ve also forked out an annual salary of £140,000 for a new policy and communications director – just £7,500 LESS than ‘Call me Dave’ gets as prime minister.
(This also probably explains why News From Crystal Palace can’t get responses to difficult questions from its press office and some of its senior councillors. Policy?)
And they will have money to give residents speed guns to monitor the borough-wide 20mph speed limit they plan to introduce. (No figure given but, say, ten thousand speed guns. How much are they going to cost?)
But they can’t find £4 million for their 10 libraries. (The mantra is Tory government cuts, Tory government cuts…)
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods which includes libraries, came up with all sorts of platitudes at last night’s council meeting….”it wasn’t an easy decision to make….”it was the right decision to make….80 per cent of users use the five town centre libraries….”
(Upper Norwood, Lambeth have decided, is not a town centre. And she didn’t even bother dealing with the Unison claim that there are queues to use the tables at Brixton library in exam times.)
“We were left with a challenge what to do with the other libraries. “We don’t want to sell them. “Only Waterloo will be sold and moving across the road.”
(She neglects to add that this is into a Christian centre in a predominantly Moslem area.)
“We will enter into partnership with our existing leisure adviser.
“As long as they are open people will be able to use the neighbourhood libraries….”
Many – but not all – Labour councilors actually applauded this tripe. Among them was Gipsy Hill ward Cllr Matthew Bennett. As I said, many. But not all.
Later in the meeting council leader Lib Peck then stood up to say that, on the issue of the garden bridge, she was prepared to meet and discuss things with the protesters who had turned with a deputation on that particular issue. (No similar offer made to the libraries deputation?)
She then came up with this absolute gem: “I think we need to stand up for people.”
Cllr Peck then turned to the subject of libraries. “We do value libraries…have a very valuable place in our community but we cannot afford as good a service as we’ve got at the moment.”
(Hang on! – Lambeth already have the lowest level of books per 1,000 population of any inner London borough; the lowest number of computer hours available per 1,000 population of any inner London borough – and neighbouring Labour-controlled Southwark already spends 50 per cent more per head of population on libraries than Lambeth.)
“We’re not able to spend as much money on neighbourhood libraries but what we’ve managed to do is retain the buildings, retain the format within them…”
(Inaudible. This meeting was nothing like the bear garden of a cabinet meeting at Dunraven. At last night’s council meeting the Mayor repeatedly asked people to listen to other points of view. But there was no mention from Cllr Peck of Greenwich Leisure Ltd, no mention of gyms. – Heaven forbid!.)
“We can’t put so much money into the neighbourhood libraries. “I regret that but it’s actually the truth.”
(Course it is luv. You’re overspending on temporary accommodation and buying speed guns instead.)
“…and we’re actually managing to double the hours of opening.” (Whether this is in the five ‘town centre libraries’, as 24-hour gyms or whatever isn’t immediately clear.)
At the beginning I mentioned John Lewis. With its gym plans Lambeth, as a co-operative council, are at the moment more like Grot, the shop founded by Reginald (Reggie) Perrin in a TV series which was hugely popular in the late 1970s.
From Wikipedia: “Grot sells useless products like square hoops, round dice and wine made from sprouts, nettles and the like, hoping it will be an interesting failure. “But the products are snapped up as novelties, and Grot becomes a huge success.”
Lambeth council have mis-sold the people of the borough just such a product.
The differences are: a) it’s not funny and b) their plans won’t be a huge success.
Unfortunately – unlike John Lewis where you can take goods back – the people of Lambeth won’t be able to do anything about it until May 2018 when the next council elections are held.
And by then, for some libraries, it may be too late.