Jane Edbrooke, the Lambeth council cabinet member responsible for libraries, explains the reasoning behind council policies.
Since 2010 the Government has forced Lambeth council to cut its budget by 56 per cent, and we expect there are more cuts to come. We’ve protected key services by making significant savings in others areas – we’ve lost nearly 900 members of staff, including management, back-office and communications, and we have also reduced the number of council buildings.
But with the scale of cuts that we face, and the fact that we spend more than 50 per cent of our remaining budget on the 10,000 most vulnerable adults and children in the borough, we cannot avoid some really difficult decisions about the other services we provide. It goes without saying that if I had the choice, we would be keeping our libraries as they are and investing more in them – but that is not the reality we face.
Despite these difficulties, we have come up with innovative ways of maintaining our libraries, following extensive consultation. This plan protects our most popular and well used libraries like the one in Brixton town centre and sees our five town centre libraries open for at least 54 hours a week.
If I had the choice we would be keeping ten libraries across the borough to serve Lambeth residents. But even if we didn’t have to make these cuts we’d want to improve the services – we know Minet Library isn’t in an ideal location and libraries like Tate South Lambeth and Durning need significant investment, or replacing with more modern facilities.
But instead we have been tasked with saving £4million pounds from our cultural services budget. To help make that saving our leisure partner GLL has agreed that it will take over the running of three of our other smaller libraries, running gyms from them alongside lending services. I’m aware this has caused concern in some quarters, but let me assure I will be heavily involved in making sure our re-organised library service continues to meet the needs of our community.
I have set this out before, but it’s worth making very clear how we anticipate our services will look once we have make the necessary savings:
- There will be no change to statutory town centre library services in Brixton, Streatham, Clapham and West Norwood. These libraries will remain staffed by the council.
- Minet Library will not be sold and will continue to house Lambeth Archives until a new home is found for them.
- A new town centre library in West Norwood at the Nettlefold Hall development, subject to planning permission.
- Upper Norwood neighbourhood library will be our first independent community run library and will continue to be funded, at a reduced level, jointly by Lambeth and Croydon councils.
- Waterloo Library will close by April 2016 but the plan is to partner with Oasis Charitable Trust to provide a neighbourhood library service at the Oasis Centre on Kennington Road, along with wider community benefits including the Waterloo Foodbank, Oasis debt advice service and Credit Union and a space for community activities including a gym and sports hall
Tate South Lambeth Library was originally proposed as the temporary town centre library for the north of the borough but following resident feedback from the consultation and because the building is more suitable for a healthy living centre, it’s now proposed that Durning Library will become the temporary town centre library funded by the council. However, the ambition would remain for a new library in the north of the borough by 2022 – replacing Durning library. This change in proposal will be subject to a four week consultation from November.
It is also proposed that the home visiting service will continue to deliver books to the homes of those who can’t get out and about – supporting our most vulnerable residents.
I now ask that the community, friends of library groups, unions, council staff and all other interested parties work with us to make this difficult transition to what I will believe will be an affordable, re-shaped service, that will keep our libraries open at a time when hundreds of others around the country have closed.
- I know there are more questions people have about these plans and some very specific issues that people have asked me to address. To best achieve that we have a Q&A online that gets into the real nitty gritty of how why these decisions have been made, and what happens next. Please visit www.lambeth.gov.uk/culture2020 to find out more.
Cllr Jane Edbrooke