Report from demonstration, March 5th 2016

It rained… but 500 people + Jay Rayner & Will Self turned out for demo in Lambeth today.
Object: make Lambeth council junk its crazy plan to spend mlliions turning two much-loved and much-used libraries into fee-charging gyms. This would cost far more than keeping them running as libraries.

Next steps:  We are now forced to seek Judical Review to challenge the gyms-in-libraries plans.

Read more and see more pictures on Brixton Buzz

Read more and see more pictures on Brixton Blog


Unison rep Ruth Cashman addresses the crowd



Writer Jay Rayner supports the protest


Writer Will Self speaks out for the libraries


Need we say more?


Tate South Lambeth support Defend the 10

Pictures by Vivienne Lewis

Friends of Lambeth Libraries press release


Jay Rayner & Will Self – and 500 Lambeth residents – turned out in the rain on Saturday (March 5) to defend their much-needed 10 libraries.

Other celebrity supporters include Richard Ayoade, Joanna Lumley and Mark Rylance.

Most in danger are the Minet and Carnegie libraries. The council plans to close both on April 1, and then spend millions converting them into fee-charging gyms. Also due to close is Waterloo library.

Will Self told the marchers that local libraries are more important than ever as a way to give internet access to all, whatever their income. They are not, he said, a gift to “well-toned bankers” – linking the idea to the rapid gentrification taking place all over Lambeth.

The library buildings will be handed to leisure company GLL at a peppercorn rent, for up to 25 years. All were donated by philanthropists on the strict condition that the council run them as libraries.

“They are not the council’s slush pile, to be trashed, sold or given away as it pleases,” said Laura Swaffield, chair of Friends of Lambeth Libraries (FOLL). “They belong to us. Hence our slogan: DON’T STEAL OUR LIBRARIES.”

The Labour council promises to replace all three libraries, some time in the future, with “neighbourhood libraries”. Despite repeated requests, it declines to say what these will offer – except that they will be “much reduced” and have no staff at all.

This means children cannot visit them without an escort for safety. It also means no help for the many disadvantaged people who currently get advice, help with using the internet and a huge range of free activities for all ages.

Toddlers, schoolkids, older people and many others can’t use a gym even if they can afford the fees. The planned gyms are both in areas already well supplied with gyms – according to the council’s own reports.

The council has committed £4m (capital and revenue) to build and support the unwanted gyms. For far less, it could keep running all Lambeth’s 10 libraries.

Laura Swaffield says:”I’m also chair of The Library Campaign, the national charity that supports library supporters. I get reports from all over the UK.

“But Lambeth’s plans are unique. No other council in the whole UK aims to spend more on destroying libraries than it would on saving them. It’s the stupidest plan I have ever seen.”

The council has rejected an alternative plan put forward by its own head of libraries, which would save more money than the current plan while still keeping all 10 badly-needed libraries running.

The decision seems irrational. An application for judicial review is to be made immediately.

A legal obligation to consult residents has already forced the council to reprieve one library from death by gym. The consultation was limited to users of two libraries, Durning and Tate South Lambeth, as to which would become a gym. The overwhelming response from both groups was that they do not want a gym – they want a library.

FOLL says: “Lambeth has yet to disclose how much it spent on this consultation. But users of Carnegie, Minet and Waterloo have spent over a year telling it the same thing – for free, and in their hundreds. They have been ignored.”

So far over 10,000 people have signed petitions, hundreds have written to the council and hundreds have turned out at council meetings and local demonstrations.

FOLL says: “We will do all we can to make Lambeth council see sense. It is destroying an essential frontline service, making itself hugely unpopular – and paying through the nose to do so.”