Councillors response to MCA letter about Minet Library

  • 18 Mar 2016 6:44 PM
    Message # 3889760
    Chair (Administrator)

    Last week I, as chair of the MCA, wrote to our local Councillors to express our opposition to the planned closure of Minet Library.  Text of my letter here. 


    To Councillors Jackie Dyer, Paul Gadsby and Annie Gallop,


    As Chair of the Minet Conservation Association, I write on behalf of all our members to express once more our opposition to the proposed plan put forward by Cllr Edbrooke for Minet and other Lambeth Libraries.


    Firstly, the Minet library is a much loved community space where many people, particularly the young, the elderly and new parents find a safe haven for shared activities, learning and a place to meet and be with others. In a time of increasing isolation in our society, we need more – not fewer – public spaces like Minet library in our communities. Indeed, I need no more than refer you to the report published by the Local Government Association this January – Combatting Loneliness, A guide for local authorities - which, I am sure you will agree, provide sobering reading about the need for vigilance on this issue and the importance of strengthening community assets and activities to help address loneliness. (http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/7632544/L15-431+Combating+loneliness+-+a+guide+for+local+authorities/b4b88757-2623-4696-ae04-565892a58909)


    Secondly, Minet Library was one of several public buildings the Minet family had built with the express purpose of ensuring there were community spaces not just rows of houses on the estate. It is worth noting also that William Minet wanted the Library to be a memorial to his wife. A keen local historian, he was adamant that the library should collect and curate local history and so he funded the collection of documents, photographs and watercolours that formed the Surrey Archive and were the genesis of the Lambeth Archives today. There is no indication in Cllr Edbrooke’s proposal of considerations about the future of Lambeth Archives. We strongly believe that the Minet Library should remain the home for the Archives, and that Lambeth Council should be working with groups including the Minet Conservation Association, Friends of Minet Library and the Minet Hub to make this happen.


    Finally, while the roads bordering Myatt’s Fields Park may appear prosperous, the Minet estate is part of Vassall ward which, along with adjoining Coldharbour ward, has very high levels of deprivation and some of the lowest educational attainment levels in the country. The Minet Library is a vital resource for many local schools and school children who do not necessarily have access to either books or computers at home. We believe Lambeth Council has a duty of care to the children in our borough and so should be supporting plans to keep libraries at the heart of communities so that our children have access to resources that can help them learn and grow.


    Much like the work that was done through a joint venture between Lambeth Council and the Myatt’s Fields Park Project group, which has seen the park flourish, we believe that with vision and the right input, the same could be achieved for Minet Library. We hope that Councillors will support this by ensuring that Minet Library does not become a parody of a library where people wanting to read and learn are excluded because machines are seen to be more important.


    Yours sincerely

    Louise Gardiner-Hill

    Chair, Minet Conservation Association


    Last modified: 18 Mar 2016 6:55 PM | Chair (Administrator)
  • 18 Mar 2016 6:49 PM
    Reply # 3889782 on 3889760
    Chair (Administrator)

    The reply from Paul Gadsby and our other Councillors to the letter from MCA about Minet Library closure.  It beggars belief... but I will be responding!


    Hi Louise,


    Thank you for the letter, we have had a chat as councillors regarding your letter and this is a joint response. We have copied in Cllr Edbrooke as well.


    As you know Lambeth council went out consultation for 3 months on Culture 2020 in January 2015 on how we would make £4m of savings across Cultural Services. This is off the back of incredible and sustained cuts to the council’s budget by the Tory-Lib Dem government from 2010 which was continued under the present government from 2015. We have now lost 56% of our budget since 2010, around £200 million by 2018, so that does mean if we are going to continue to protect services to the most vulnerable residents, like our council tax support scheme and domestic violence unit which helps many vulnerable people here in Vassall, we are going to have to make savings in other areas (you may have already read it, but here is something about the recent budget decisions in Vassall).


    In terms of the way forward, as you know the council is going to concentrate resources on the four bigger libraries that get 75% of the footfall for library visitors in the borough, including nearby Brixton library which is used by residents in Vassall. On Minet, instead of selling the building – which Cllr Edbrooke will confirm we lobbied against – the building is being kept under council ownership with a lease going to GLL. Under the revised proposals, the archives are going to be maintained for the time being alongside a neighbourhood library service, with book stock, self-service machines, computers and study space. This will not be the library service as it is now and we won’t pretend that it is, but we are striving to maintain a service despite the huge cuts to local government: hundreds of libraries have closed across the country and our aim to stop a service being lost altogether. We have pushed very hard for free wi fi and study space as councillors as we did get feedback from residents that this was a key element of what they wanted protected. To cover the costs of the building and the library service, GLL, a social enterprise, will provide health and fitness facilities in the building at council level subscriptions not private gym rates. This will also result in longer opening hours in the building. On the issue of the staff mutual, please see the below which is from Cllr Edbrooke:


    The idea of a staff mutual was first discussed and encouraged in 2012. The library management expressed an interest in establishing a staff mutual in April 2015 as part of their response to Culture 2020 consultation. This expression of interest was judged as not viable. As part of a review by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, they asked if the staff mutual could be considered again – local councillors in Vassall also asked for the proposals to be seriously considered. The library management was given a further opportunity to provide an updated proposal. This was submitted in January 2016. The council offered the library management funding of £10,000 to buy financial and legal support in preparing the proposal.


    A panel led by Lambeth council’s Strategic Director for Corporate Resources, who was not involved in the Culture 2020 consultation, including an expert from an independent agency called Mutual Ventures which was involved in setting up a Staff Mutual system for libraries in York, as well as council legal and finance officers evaluated the proposal.


    Their assessment found that while the Staff and Community Mutual proposal contained some good proposals for service improvements, there was not a business plan in place that could deliver the significant savings required by 1 April 2016. The proposal did not address in detail questions about the transfer of legal responsibilities, staff terms and conditions or how they could generate more income. It was not a viable plan that could deliver the savings required within the next 12-18 months required given the government cuts to our budget.


    http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/lsp-Assessment-of-Staff-and-Community-Mutual-4-March-2016.pdf


    As councillors, we do want to be clear that no one is pleased about cuts and we have been out campaigning against them since the three of us were elected in 2014: we are on the doorstep now making that point to people every weekend and between us campaigned around the country against nationwide cuts at last year’ general election. We believe the proposals at the moment give us the best chance to preserve the building, keep services in there and it also gives us the time to have a conversation with residents about the future of the site - one which of course includes community use.


    Kind regards

    Jacqui, Paul and Annie


    Last modified: 18 Mar 2016 6:51 PM | Chair (Administrator)

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