Carnegie Library reopening rally 15 February from 1pm! Continue reading
GLL will be staffing Carnegie Library in a clear breach of policy. UNISON is advising our members not to work there until the issue is resolved
Lambeth Council is wasting thousands of pounds on security guards in the closed Minet and Carnegie Library buildings. The cost of these security guards is more than it would have cost to keep them open in the first place.
Lambeth Council have backed down on closing Upper Norwood Library, keeping it open now until July and then with library staff on site for another 2 years after that. A massive victory for the local library campaign Continue reading
Over 500 people joined the protest on 5 March to show opposition to the councils ludicrous plans for the library service in Lambeth. The protest was a brilliant show of public support and sent a clear message to the council – campaigners won’t stop until every library is saved.
They were joined by local writer Will Self who slammed the ‘healthy living centre’ plans for our libraries. Attacking the claim by some Labour Councillors that mainly middle class people use libraries, Will pointed out that “Libraries are places where some of the most disadvantaged people can go.” This was backed up by UNISON joint branch secretary Ruth Cashman who explained the kind of people she helps on a daily basis, people needing help with housing benefit forms, women needing support from domestic abuse, newly arrived immigrants learning English and children doing their homework because there isn’t a computer or enough space at home for them to work.
Will Self explained what Gymtrification actually means in Lambeth; “I see the closure of these libraries as the front line in the class cleansing that’s going on in inner London”. He raised a laugh when he pinted out that; “Nobody wants to see a load of well-toned, wanker bankers cycling to nowhere in the Tate library…”
Other local people have also put out social media support for the campaign, including Oscar Winner Mark Rylance, Richard Ayoade, Josie Long and Joana Lumley.
Council plans a shambles
But the fact is that the current plans from the council are in tatters. Keeping Tate South Lambeth open as a library, alongside Durning, was a huge victory for the campaign. But the decision to keep the archives in Minet will require library staff to remain onsite, and mean there is hardly any space for the supposed gym equipment from Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL). Carnegie library is being preyed on by another trust run by councillors and ex councillors which does not have the backing the local Labour Party branch.
Even if GLL does take over the buildings, the feeling of anger from local people is so strong that it is hard to imagine anyone using these facilities. GLL would be losing money hand over fist to run gyms in the libraries, unless of course Lambeth council throws good money after bad to keep them afloat.
The council has also failed to be clear on key aspects of the deal with GLL. What rents are being collected for the buildings? They have been described as “peppercorn”. What health and safety plans are in place? Has a risk assessment been done? Can children use the buildings? Recently UNISON was told by senior council management that they “didn’t know” if children under 16 could use those buildings.
Other burning questions remain unanswered by our secretive councillors. How much money will actually be saved by the council for closing these libraries? How much money is being spent by the council on converting the libraries? What are the break clauses in the contracts with GLL when the council realises a year from now that their plan has ended in disaster?
With three weeks to go the councils plans are a shambles. And it is hypocrisy that they have rejected the proposal from Susanna Barnes – which they had for 12 months – when they have just nodded through a ridiculous plan for the healthy living centres.
The message from UNISON and local people is clear – there is still time for the council to come back to the table and work with us on an alternative proposal. Otherwise the current council will always be remembered as the Labour council that handed over 100 year old libraries to a gym company.
Support the Lambeth ‘Save our Libraries’ fight
This branch/body notes that:
Closing libraries is short-sighted and irresponsible and that public libraries are an essential part of a functioning literate nation. Closing libraries in a time of austerity is like closing hospitals in a time of plague. In the last Public sector spending round, the Tory government pushed through cuts of £6.1 billion and are looking to go even further: Local authorities are now struggling to deliver statutory services or even stay afloat. The overall budget of many authorities has already fallen by as much as a third. Lambeth Council have announced that they want to make 1,000 staff redundant over the next two years and £100 million cuts. Its time Labour Councils stood up to Tory austerity.
On 1st April 2016, contrary to the desires expressed in a consultation to keep libraries open, Lambeth Council will hand over three of their Libraries to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) to turn into gyms (these are big public assets which are being given away to GLL on 25 year ‘peppercorn’ rents); sell off Waterloo Library and hand Upper Norwood Library to a trust to run the building with no staff.
Unison, the Friends of Lambeth Libraries and the Save Libraries campaign have organised supporters to oppose the Council’s plans and have lobbied, taken strike action and demonstrated at levels unseen in recent years.
We resolve to:
- Support the campaign in Lambeth to defend the libraries including supporting community occupations and staff strike action.
- Give support, including a donation £…………………, to the Lambeth Unison members in Libraries to help them to continue their industrial action and to fight back against the Councils cuts.
- Encourage members to sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lambeth-don-t-steal-our-libraries.
- Raise within our unions and labour Parties the call for London-wide and nation-wide action, including demonstrations, publicity and industrial action, to stop the massacre of national Library services currently underway.
Donations payable to Lambeth Unison: C/o Unison, 1st floor, International House, Canterbury Crescent. London. SW9 7QE.
Baroness Whitaker on the attacks to Lambeth’s Libraries;
“I have just moved into the Waterloo area and am so impressed by the constant use of my new excellent local library, with its IT facilities, clearly very much needed, its good collection of local books and its helpful staff. In my view it would be very damaging to the neighbourhood of Lower Marsh, the local vibrant shopping street, for it to be deprived of its library. Its site is easily accessible and it adds a lot to the street. All I hear from local people is how they value it as part of the Lower Marsh Community. I do urge Lambeth Council to keep it where it is.”