There’s a glimmer of hope for Tate South Lambeth Library, fated to
become a fee-charging gym instead of a well-used free community
resource for everyone.
It’s a thin hope – but a real one – for all of Lambeth’s doomed libraries.
Lambeth’s awful library plans were officially ‘called in’ at a council
scrutiny cttee on Tues evening, 10th November 2015.
This is the now-notorious plan to reduce five out of ten libraries to a
fraction of their size, with no staff at all, & – even worse – put
fee-charging gyms in three of these. This plan is so absurd it was picked
up by PRIVATE EYE for ridicule.
This in a borough that is already over-supplied with local gyms – and
where proper libraries with staff to help people are badly needed by
the many residents who have little money, need help using ICT to claim
benefits or seek jobs, have poor literacy, disabilities… as well as
the usual small children, schoolkids, young people, old people and
black people who make heavy use of local libraries.
A packed & angry meeting filled about 250 seats at Lilian Baylis
School, Kennington Lane.
Partial victory at least.
We were expecting the usual rubber stamp. Lambeth councillors are
notoriously bullied into always supporting the party line no matter
what. But we got something just a little better….
Cllrs Scott Ainslie (Green) and Tim Briggs (Conservative) patiently
pointed out that money is clearly identifiable to keep the library
service going, while making all the cuts Lambeth demands.
Libraries portfolio holder Cllr Jane Edbrooke and Lambeth officer John
Kerridge addressed none of these points, falling back on their now
totally discredited excuse that they have no choice because of
government cuts. Demonstrably untrue.
It was a pleasure to hear – often – reference to existence of a viable
alternative plan by brilliant head of libraries Susanna Barnes, who
has already transformed a notoriously under-funded service into a London
leader, with a host of extra services and activities, booming demand
and national fame for its unique, ground-breaking facilities for
people with sight problems, enabling them to read independently.
Lambeth officers have sat on this plan and done nothing with it –
while rushing through a ‘plan’ for leisure company GLL to spend over
£1m revenue and £3m capital on the disastrous gyms – for which there
is no business case, no market research – not even a basic feasibilty
Even Lambeth’s cowed committee were interested to know more.
Frustratingly, library campaigners saw them miss by just one vote (5
councillors vs 4) the option to send the whole thing back to Cabinet for
But – remarkably by Lambeth council standards – we did get a decision
to ‘make such recommendations to Cabinet as it sees fit’.
– with a LONG list of recommendations that cover most of the things that
Friends of Lambeth Libraries says:
‘Surely we can work with this and easily show how awful AND FINANCIALLY
UNNECESSARY these daft plans are. It is glaringly obvious to anyone
prepared to listen. The council can do itself a favour and re-think.
Or it can face furious opposition from residents all over the borough,
who are marching in their hundreds and signing petitions in their
SOME OF THE POINTS RAISED BY SCRUTINY COMMITTEE, WHICH MUST NOW BE ANSWERED:
– what mitigation is planned for the many people disadvantaged by unstaffed
– more development work needed on Susanna Barnes’s proposal
– guarantee that ICT access points WITH SUPPORT will be the same or more
– look at alternative plans with ‘much more reflection about what the
– need to be ‘a bit more robust’ in dealings with GLL – ‘I’m uncomfortable
that they seem to be taking the lead in this’, said one committee member