UPDATE from Friends of Lambeth Libraries chair and assessment of alternative plan

UPDATE

Culture2020 seems to be in a state of shambles.

Waterloo is to remain open two more months because the Oasis premises for an unstaffed fake “library” are not ready.

UNJL is to stay open one more month, for reasons unknown.

At Carnegie, complete farce now reigns. Surveys in 2010 and 2014 had already established that a gym is the last thing locals want, or need. The Friends of Carnegie Library, with their numerous members and supporting local groups, don’t want a gym. Even the dubious unelected ‘community trust’ that Lambeth favours doesn’t want a gym. But Lambeth insists they must have one! This trust now says it will accept a gym only if the huge but shallow basement is excavated to accommodate it. What will that cost?

See http://carnegiehernehill.org.uk/uncategorized/update-discussions-lambeth-council

At Minet, the Friends are working with a wide range of local groups, and likely NHS involvement, to develop the building as a centre to to promote healthy living for the whole community. On 18 March, representatives of 50 local organisations met to discuss “how to work together to improve the wellbeing of people in Vassall and Coldharbour wards”. They agreed that far and away the first priority is “develop Minet library”!

Both Minet and Carnegie libraries are still condemned to die on 1 April. While closed to the public, both must stay functioning buildings, paying rates and utilities, because they house tenants and library back offices (Carnegie) or the archives (Minet). The staff are still on the payroll, pending redundancy in the future. So not a penny is saved by shutting down the much-used, much-loved libraries.

Meanwhile, I have written a long analysis of the assessment of the Head of Libraries’ altenative plan for our lawyers. They have now sent a stiff letter to Lambeth. A summary is below.

Laura Swaffield
Chair, Friends of Lambeth Libraries

THE “ASSESSMENT” of THE HEAD OF LIBRARIES’ ALTERNATIVE PLAN

With lots of high-up Lambeth officers on the panel, this assessment looks impressive at first sight – until you actually read it. It amounts to a list of all the hurdles Lambeth officers have busily put in the way of the alternative plan.

You can plough through it yourself at: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/lsp-Assessment-of-Staff-and-Community-Mutual-4-March-2016.pdf

I have written a long analysis for our lawyers. They have now sent a stiff letter to Lambeth.

Here’s a brief summary…

There are three main screaming flaws.

The first is constant references to the time needed for further detailed work on legal, financial (etc) implications. Well, whose fault is that?

Lambeth didn’t even look at Susanna Barnes’ (head of libraries) original proposal, submitted in April 2015. If they had, there would have been ample time to get it in place. And, of course, Lambeth’s legal and financial staff should have been available to advise.

Instead, Lambeth had to be forced to consider the plan, by relentless campaigning and its own Overview & Scrutiny Committee. Finally, Susanna was given just one month (including Christmas!) to put forward a detailed plan. With no help from Lambeth officers.

Anyway, the trust model Susanna proposes is already well established. There are 30 library trusts running in the UK, and over 20 more in the pipeline. All the groundwork has been done.

The second screaming flaw is related. With all the time, funding and officer support Lambeth’s ghastly gym plan has had, we STILL have seen no business case, no financial projections, no sign of the “Lambeth Cultural Trust” supposed to be set up in January. One standard has been applied to Susannas plan, but a far more lenient one applied to the Culture2020 plan.

And still no plans for the wretched, unstaffed fake “libraries” it wants to foist on to four of its flourishing services – and none of the long-promised public meetings to discuss these. (Congratulations to TSL for escaping this fate – but that doesn’t help the doomed Carnegie, Minet, UNJL and Waterloo libraries.)

No mention of all this among the assessment’s criticisms of Susanna’s highly detailed plan.

The third flaw is perhaps most galling of all. The assessment says: “Proposal not in line with current Cabinet decision.” That’s because the Head of Libraries’ is a superior plan! It would keep all 10 libraries running, instead of trashing four. Meanwhile, the culture2020 plan does not make anything like the savings required. And it has no clue about how to reach that point in the future.

Susanna’s plan surpasses Culture2020 in this, and all, respects. Even now, there is time and money to implement it. The council has every reason to do so. Its own plan is clearly an expensive disaster. Local elections are coming up in 2018…

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