The shape of things to come – the Cooperative Libraries policy goes before Lambeth Council

Lambeth Council officers have now submitted their proposals for library policy for consideration by the Council cabinet on July 9th 2012.

These proposals have been drawn up after three months of public consultation (in January-April) which has prompted some modification of the original set of proposals.

The latest proposals represent :

  • no change in the underlying principle
  • a significant change in the share out of the cut in overall funding of the service
  • some uncertainty both as to the exact evolution of the community hub model for smaller libraries and as to the size of capital funds available for investment

What remains the same?

No current library will face closure.

The library service will in essence be two-tier – three large “central” libraries (at Brixton, Clapham and Streatham) which will be the focus of service development and six smaller “local” libraries (seven if Upper Norwood, jointly funded with Croydon, is included).

All but one of the six libraries will become “community hubs”, offering a wider range of services to the local community but with library service as the “themed service priority”. There will be scope for local partnership, with its exact nature and extent depending on local conditions, capacity and interest.

What has changed?

Responding to widely and strongly expressed public objections, the burden of the cut in library service funding over the years 2012/12 and 2013/14 has been more evenly spread. Specifically more cuts will be made in central, borough-wide services, allowing smaller cuts in funding for the smaller libraries.

How much funding each of the small libraries gets is determined by local need. The original proposals also took into account past performance (visits, items borrowed).

These two changes have left Tate South Lambeth Library with a significantly higher settlement. Spending in the current year will be reduced by £3,000 from £230,000 last year and by £29,000 next. This represents a reduction of 14% between 2011/12 and 2013/14 – instead of the 42% proposed in the consultation document, which would have meant a cut of £96,000 per year.

What is uncertain?

What remains unclear at this stage is how Tate South Lambeth Library will evolve as a community hub library and what adaptations of the building this will entail. Lambeth proposes to fund a survey, condition and options appraisal.

The other current uncertainty is about the £6m capital programme of investment and renewal that is now being proposed (half to make libraries “fit for purpose” and half for the development of community hubs). That sum will be provided from the sale of Council assets – which, as the documents recognise, is” subject to market conditions”.

If you want to see the details…

The detailed proposals – for both Cooperative Libraries and Community Hubs –together with an analysis of the consultation results can be found on: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=225&MId=8105&Ver=4  (Follow the link to Agenda reports)

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