Carnegie library in Herne Hill is to “reopen as a healthy living centre” next year, say Lambeth council.

The announcement, which comes in papers to be considered at next Monday’s meeting of the council’s cabinet, appears to be in direct contrast to the hugely controversial planning applications submitted by Greenwich Leisure for the Herne Hill Road building.

The two planning applications BOTH say the existing library will be retained – and neither use the phrase ‘healthy living centre’.

The applications are for:

1) Retention of the existing library together with the erection of two storey extension to the south west elevation and part excavation of the basement and an external plant compound provided at basement level. Existing columns supporting the ground floor will be underpinned and sections of the masonry walls removed and certain openings enlarged. Existing basement cloakroom fittings including sanitary ware, finishes and partitions will be stripped out to permit reconfiguration and expansion of these facilities with alterations at ground floor level comprising forming a new door to the existing stairwell, removal of existing and provision of new partitions.

2) Retention of the existing library together with the erection of a two storey extension to the south west elevation. Change of use and part excavation of the basement from a library (Use Class D1) to a gym and studio (Use Class D2) and the construction of an external plant compound provided at basement level.*

Friends of Lambeth Libraries told News From Crystal Palace:

“Carnegie Library used to be a healthy living centre, with information on every aspect of health, special collections on mental health, staff trained to give advice on problems from dementia to money management, free activities for every age group to combat isolation, a garden for relaxation or gardening, quiet space to study or read, and the kind of exercise sessions people actually requested, such as yoga.

“Now all of this will go.
“At a cost of millions, it will become a noisy, fee-charging gym.
“Useless for those who needed the library most.
“Consistently voted last in any survey of what local people wanted.
“A kick in the teeth for them, and a big hand-out for Greenwich Leisure Limited.”

Elsewhere, the main budget report to cabinet says:

The Secretary of State made an offer to councils of a four year financial settlement for future years and on 10 October 2016 the Council accepted this offer as the only one on the table from the government. We expect to be able to confirm the exact funding for 2017/18 following the funding settlement in December 2016.

The report summary adds: “We are committed to ensuring that we prioritise protection of our front line services. We want to continue to maintain resident satisfaction at current levels (72%, the highest satisfaction recorded).**

The reduction in core government funding and pressures of £55m over this period is not evenly spread, with more falling in the first year. This makes it more difficult to plan the reductions required. We have proposed savings that reflect our Borough Plan Priorities and also supports the Children’s Social Care improvement strategy. Therefore we will use the Council’s balances to spread the savings over the three year planning period.

Efficiency- Staffing Saving Proposals 2.19 We are proposing to make savings of £11.84m through staffing efficiencies. As reported in February 2016 and reconfirmed in the October Finance Planning Report the council has embarked on developing a programme to deliver a fundamental organisation redesign. This will reduce management layers and increase spans of control, optimise digitisation and automation of processes for both residents and staff, and control access to services through one front door, reducing duplication and fragmentation. The overall savings from staffing efficiencies over 2016/17 and 2017/18 is anticipated to be £20m. Savings of £3m have been achieved by the voluntary severance offer made to staff and the remaining £17m must come from the organisational redesign. This impacts mainly on support services, the majority of which are in Corporate Resources.

Housing total saving of £0.25m, through a frontline services review, which will merge a number of teams and functions, to provide a larger pool of housing advisers. (Under ‘Corporate Resources’ elsewhere in the report it states: Merging the housing call centre with the customer services call centre saving of £0.25m.)

Legal and Democracy 6.4 In reaching decisions on these matters, members are bound by the general principles of administrative law.

Lawful discretions must not be abused or fettered and all relevant considerations must be taken into account. No irrelevant considerations may be taken into account, and any decision made must not be such that no reasonable authority, properly directing itself, could have reached.

Members must also balance the interests of service users against those who contribute to the Council’s finances. Monies may not be expended thriftlessly and the full resources available to the Council must be deployed to their best advantage. Members must also act prudently and in a business-like manner at all times.

Minet library is now the subject of further study in relation 22 to the future location of the archive as the council continues to fund and support the cultural offer in the borough.

*4.28 In addition to investment from development, the implementation of Culture 2020 is now well underway with Waterloo and Upper Norwood services already up and running. It is expected that Carnegie library will reopen as a healthy living centre in 2017. (page 21)

**What the report actually said: Very satisfied 14 pc; Fairly satisfied 58 pc; Fairly dissatisfied 11pc; Very dissatisfied six pc. See: LAMBETHWATCH: THREE MOCK THE WEEK October 14th

Further reading: SECRET DIARY OF A LAMBETH LABOUR COUNCILLOR (age uncertain) – Chapter Two November 18th


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