On 28th May 2012 Adrian Smith, the director of the culture and communities division of Lambeth Council (which is responsible for libraries) and Iago Griffith, neighbourhood regeneration officer, came to a public meeting in the courtyard of Tate South Lambeth Library.
The question we asked
The question Friends of Tate South Lambeth had posed in its invitation to Adrian Smith was: had Lambeth understood the impact of Vauxhall’s development (as part of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea scheme) on demand for our local library?
Why we asked it: the current situation-
The reason Friends posed the question was that we were not satisfied with the treatment of population as a factor in the allocation of funds to libraries, set out in the Cooperative Libraries consultation paper . Population, measured by ward, was presented as one of the indicators that determined the allocation.
Our specific objection was to the statement: “ in coming years [the population] in no one ward increases more than any other and any variations are extremely small”.
We objected that this did not recognise that population in Oval, which is the Lambeth ward affected by population increase stemming from VNEB, and which is in the immediate catchment area for Tate South Lambeth Library, will inevitably be rising at considerably higher rates than in any other ward. This rise in the population must have an impact on demand for library services at Tate South Lambeth Library which is located only 700 yards from the Vauxhall gyratory system and half that distance from the Wandsworth Road edge of the VNEB. (We put this point in our detailed response to Cooperative Libraries.)
We were told at this meeting that Lambeth Council has a planning target of 3,000 new homes in the next fifteen years. We had also been told that current libraries policy is not taking this into account since the policy goes only to March 2013. But we think the growth forecast must inform the planning for public services – of which libraries are an integral part –over the medium and long term.
– and past history
Another reason for raising the population issue was past history – the failure to secure funds from VNEB private developers for the upgrading of our library.
Under current plans Wandsworth is to receive £5.87 million for a new library in Battersea. But Lambeth gets nothing – because the VNEB Development Infrastructure Funding Study (October 2010) assessed that no new library facilities were required, since there are two libraries nearby (Tate South Lambeth, the closest, and Durning). But what about capital investment to upgrade our under-resourced library ?
It’s up to us
In the light of this experience the meeting urged that Lambeth make a better case for access to the planned Community Infrastructure Levy (a tax on private development, with proceeds to go to local capital projects ). This will have a “community engagement mechanism”, so local groups such as Friends of TSL will have to lobby for funds to ensure that our area gets a fairer slice of the benefit from a massive development that affects our lives directly.
The good bits of the curate’s egg
Adrian Smith brought some positive news on library policies and repeated some significant commitments:
In response to the public consultation on libraries policy the burden of reduction in library spending will be more widely shared. Further cuts will be made at the centre, and none of the three large libraries (Brixton, Streatham and Clapham) will be exempt from cuts. This will allow more funds to go to the six smaller libraries.
Lambeth Council will not walk away from the provision of library service (this remains a statutory duty and the Council would intervene if the community partner in a fully co-produced library failed).
There is no plan to close any library.