LAMBETHWATCH: “WITH A LIBRARY AT ITS HEART”  / LAMBETH COUNCIL PEER REVIEW

LAMBETHWATCH: “WITH A LIBRARY AT ITS HEART”  / LAMBETH COUNCIL PEER REVIEW

Last November Bruno Combelles made a Freedom of Information request to Lambeth council regarding the Carnegie library, Herne Hill.  

He asked: “Can you provide the amounts paid (including donations and support in kind such as training) to each community group, The Carnegie Community Trust and The Carnegie Library Association in support to the development of their respective bids?”

Lambeth’s response: “The Carnegie Library Association were given a grant of £9,355 to support the development of their business plan.

“The Carnegie Community Trust received a grant of £50,000 from the Cooperative Borough Fund in 2013.

“The purpose of the funding was to provide additional capacity to enable it to progress with its work on developing viable and sustainable proposals for the conservation, adaption and repair of the Carnegie library building to accommodate additional community, cultural, social investment and commercial uses to create a sustainable Community Hub with a library at its heart.”

So there you have it: With a library at its heart. And not in the building’s side rooms. (Source: whatdotheyknow website)

LAMBETH PEER REVIEW

The recent peer review of Lambeth council by officers and councillors from other authorities in England raises a disturbing issue, and one that’s apparently not confined just to Lambeth.

Suggestions from the peer review team included:

Don’t retreat – retain your outward focus and continue to develop new ideas from the community to ensure that you remain open to new ways of working.

Be willing to be robust – sometimes you need to have greater resolve in the face of opposition.

But there is NOTHING from the peer review team advising Lambeth which says that if the vast majority of public opinion is against you on any particular issue to go away and re-think it. Or even ask the public why they are voicing the objections they have voiced. Just go ahead and do it.

Sadly it seems that “consultation” by councils across England and not just in Lambeth has just become a euphemism for “sit there, let people have their say and then go ahead and do what we planned in the first place.”

The writer of this piece has, as a local newspaper reporter and website reporter, covered numerous council and committee meetings at eight London boroughs – not including Lewisham or Southwark.

In both Labour-controlled and Conservative-controlled boroughs there has been an increasing attitude over time of “We’ve been elected. “We’ve got the divine right to do what we jolly well like.”

Wrong.

They didn’t then.

They don’t now.

They are there to serve the people, not their political masters.

Councils like Lambeth are forcing their own national policies at local level: 20 mph speed limits. Homes for Lambeth – which just seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the Conservative government reducing council rents – a move which actually puts money in poorer people’s pockets.

Curiously it’ appears to be only Labour-controlled councils who are coming up with such housing projects.

Then there’s community hubs where you have a community hub and a library in the same building. Different people running the two different sections. Why?

For starters Lambeth council finally need to start LISTENING to people. (For the benefit of new readers dissent in Lambeth council by Labour councillors and among local Labour party members is not tolerated. You have to agree with whoever is running the show 100 per cent. Or else.)

The dictionary definition of consultation says: “The action or process of formally consulting or discussing.”

Lambeth don’t listen. They certainly don’t discuss.They need to start doing both.

That way they could avoid much of the heartbreak and distress they have caused, and continue to cause, on those estates threatened with unnecessary demolition and which seems to have more to do with political point-scoring, and to book borrowers and users of libraries whose futures are still very, very uncertain.

Lambeth are continuously screaming about having to make cutbacks because of the wicked Tory government. Hiss, boo.

But this is a council which put £210 million into banks and building societies over a two-year period.

This isn’t money they owed to banks and building societies, their only main debtor is the Public Works Loan Board which is a government ‘bank’ which loans councils huge sums of money over set periods of many years. They also spend small fortunes on consultants.

They can’t have it both ways.

The fact of the matter is that when a Labour government gets elected they give most of the money pie to Labour-controlled councils, when a Conservative government gets elected, they give most of the money pie to Conservative-controlled councils.

Cue mock outrage from councils which didn’t get the bigger share.

It’s an out of control merry-go-round which someone has to put the brake on. There has to be a level playing field based on such things as need and keeping basic services.

The Conservative government appear to have at least made an effort to do that with school funding.

But newly-elected Ellie Reeves, MP for Lewisham West and Penge and one of the Cator Park alumni, in her maiden speech to Parliament said Forest Hill school for boys has a funding deficit of £1.3million as a result and that all schools in her constituency face funding cuts.

Bromley Liberal Democrats say schools in Conservative-controlled Bromley are set to be hit by devastating cuts of £22 million by 2019 – equivalent to £528 per pupil.  Details of the effect of these cuts to each school are available on the website School Cuts.

The cuts are caused by the Conservative Government’s plan to change the schools funding formula which will generally see funds diverted away from schools in metropolitan areas such as Bromley, says an item on their website.

“The Liberal Democrats are in favour of the national funding formula. “It should be a fairer and more transparent system for everyone” said local campaigner Julie Ireland.

“But to introduce this change when schools are already suffering cuts to the overall budget of 6.5 pc is ridiculous.”

Note: The peers who delivered the peer challenge at LB Lambeth were: Joanne Roney OBE, chief executive, Wakefield council ; Cllr Richard Watts, leader, LB Islington; Cllr Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, LB Croydon;  Jonathan Bunt, strategic director, finance& investment, LB Barking & Dagenham;  Sarah Reed, assistant chief executive, Sunderland city council·  Nick Ball, project manager, LB Redbridge;  Kate Herbert, peer challenge manager, LGA·

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