Almost 14 months since Carnegie and Minet libraries were pointlessly closed… what’s happening?
Well, local people are never told anything, but here’s some pointers…
1. PLANS STILL IN CHAOS
At the end of April the council press office told a Freedom of Information query about the libraries: “Specific agreements relating to particular local arrangements and individual buildings are still under negotiation.” This, remember, is the council that turned down a viable plan to keep all Lambeth’s 10 libraries open AND make all the savings demanded. Why? Because it would not be in place for April 2016. Date of decision? March 2016. Why so late? The plan was presented in April 2015, but the council delayed and delayed…
2. COMMUNITY STILL INSULTED
Despite being ignored and sometimes insulted, pesky locals continue to make it clear they want their library back – not a useless gym. One way is by keeping the library railings decorated with ribbons, flowers and posters.
In a rare burst of action, these were all taken down on Monday (15 May). Locals have reacted with fury – and immediately replaced them. “Lambeth really knows how to unite a community!” comments one neighbour.
3. COMMUNITY STILL IGNORED
Meanwhile – despite repeated requests – there is so sign of the “community liaison committee” promised by unloved councillor Jim “Gym” Dickson at the planning meeting on 7 February.
This is supposed to ensure neighbours are consulted on the wrecking of the building (opposed by 313 people; five in favour). Similar liaison was also promised in the planning application itself.
4. MONEY STILL WASTED
The Carnegie building – despite council denials – continues to incur all the costs it did when open: rates, utilities, staff.
PLUS the cost of security at £5,400 per month after an initial panicked flurry that cost thousands more after the library was occupied in April 2016.
PLUS the loss of £5,000 per month formerly paid in rent by the businesses booted out of the building with no notice at all.
PLUS the growing bill for damage to building and garden caused by neglect.
NB: Since the weekend of 6-7 May, all security has now been withdrawn. Let’s see how that works out.
5. BUILDING STILL DETERIORATING
The soundly-built Carnegie has an “indefinite” lifespan, say surveyors – if it is looked after.
Library staff and the Friends of Carnegie ensured regular no-brainer maintenance such as clearing the gutters. That all stopped when the library closed.
Despite warnings from the Friends, water, damp and mould have predictably got in – and no repairs have been done.
6. GARDEN STILL A MESS
Similarly, the Friends always maintained (at no cost, of course) the Carnegie’s attractive gardens. Now they are overgrown and full of junk. The Friends have had to remove thousands of pounds’ worth of recreation goodies they had funded.
After all, as GLL and the council plan to almost halve the space, fell trees and fill the space with a garish new entrance and building plant, they won’t be needed…
7. JAPANESE KNOTWEED
NOW, Japanese knotweed is starting to flourish. This notorious, hard-to-control pest is known to spring into activity if the ground is disturbed (by, for instance, digging to excavate the basement and install a gym). After the council did a botch job of eradicating the knotweed some years ago, it has been kept at bay by the Friends via the required, regular care. That, of course, was stopped.
A commercial landscape garden firm has been spotted in the grounds. After all, why would the council want a large garden maintained for free by the community, when it can have small one maintained for a generous fee, against all the community’s expressed wishes? The Friends contacted this firm six weeks ago offering advice and experience. One acknowledgement – then nothing, despite repeated emails.
8. JIM STILL ON PLANET ZOG
Councillor Gym Dickson is still in full denial – “Good progress is being made”, he tweeted on 6 May.
9. WORST OF ALL…
If this farce ever comes to an end, the result will be:
– millions wasted on hand-outs to GLL for a gym in the basement that nobody needs or wants
– a good chance that GLL will be allowed to use as much of the ground floor to do whatever it pleases, however noisy
– a thriving, fully used library replaced by something much smaller – and without the librarians needed to help users
– a furious, alienated community -just in time for local elections in May 2018.