Lambeth council are set to award a contract for work on turning the basement of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill into a gym – work which will cost around a staggering £1.25 MILLION.

But library campaigners say at least ELEVEN planning conditions must be in place before works start.*

And Lambeth’s Conservative opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs says the bill is projected to run up to £3 MILLION.*

A copy of the proposed contract with Forcia Ltd is set to be signed under delegated powers on July 19th by Cllr Sonia Winifred, Lambeth’s new cabinet member for equalities and culture.

One part of the contract (9.4) states: “The proposal creates a gym and healthy living centre in the basement, a library and community space.

But another part of the same contract says:”Once complete the council and its agents will seek to enter into a phase two tendering exercise to create a healthy living centre and gym to be managed by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).”

The contract for work in the basement is set to be signed even though it says the agreement with Greenwich Leisure is “still pending”.

It states: “The funding for this award is comprised of £2 million of capital receipts and £1 million from the joint proceeds of the profit share agreement between Lambeth and Greenwich Leisure via the councils leisure contract.

“The agreement with GLL for this is still pending and is required for the full delivery of the project, but there is sufficient funding from capital receipts to cover the value of this particular award.”

The contract says (1.3) works will be carried out in two phases: Phase 1 Basement shell and core (excavation) works £1.16m Phase 2 Conversion and Fit Out works, including new Neighbourhood Library £1.50m. (There is no explanation for the discrepancy between these figures and the £1.25 million quoted elsewhere in the contract – Ed.)

Library users may be wondering what “fit out works” means.

The contract says (5.6): “It is proposed that the gym will be managed by GLL and the library and community spaces of the building will be managed by a community group, in line with the council’s community asset transfer policy.

“The aspiration of the council is that the library will be run by the community for the community, once again mitigating the temporary equalities impact the closure would have had on those that regularly frequented the building in the past. (7.3)”

But elsewhere (9.2) the contract states: “When the building reopens as a neighbourhood library, the library will be staffed by peripatetic staff who will work two hours per day on site. “The rest of the time the building will be staffed by community asset transfer staff or GLL staff.”

The contract also repeats the usual twaddle (7.1) about Government cutbacks: “The authority understands that Carnegie library was (WAS?!!! – Ed.) a much loved and integral part of the borough’s library service and has previously provided an important centre for many residents and Lambeth stakeholders in their daily lives.

“Due to increased budget pressures emanating from central government austerity measures continuity of the library service could no longer continue in its previous format, and closed in March 2016.”

News of the contract follows an exclusive on the Brixton Blog website:  Carnegie excavation to start with GLL deal still to be finalised by Alan Slingsby July 4.

The Brixton Blog article prompted the following reply from Jeff Doorn, chairman of the Friends of Carnegie Library on their website:

“There has never been a suggestion that GLL would run the library, only that their gym staff would be on site. “Nor is it true that the asset transferee would run the library with volunteers.

“Lambeth have never answered the question of what benefit GLL would bring to the building or service, as they would not pay any rent or have any responsibility for maintenance, etc.

“In fact the presence of a gym in the building, the planned internal interventions and building over much of the garden would severely limit community and income generation activities and could render quiet study and library use impossible.

“This intrusive, dangerous scheme must be stopped now.”

Lambeth council have come back with the following comments:

The healthy living centre “will be in the basement, as it states.”

£1.25m is the cost of this contract to deliver phase one. £1.16 was the original estimate for phase one.

Fit out works: “It’s a council contract award report Jerry, not a press release. “Regardless, this is a pretty standard term.”

With reference to: “9.2 The rest of the time the building will be staffed by community asset transfer staff or GLL staff.” Lambeth responded:

“What’s your point here? “The library will be hosted on the ground and first floors (deemed ‘community space’), library staff will be provided (by) Lambeth council, the space will be managed by the community group (agreement on asset transfer pending).  “GLL staff will manage the gym.”

*Please see separate stories – Ed.


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