A Lambeth council leaflet being delivered to homes in the area has been slammed as “grossly misleading” by the Friends of Carnegie Library.

The Friends say Lambeth’s current plans would not provide a viable library or a viable gym.

The library would not have sufficient space, staffing or hours to attract enough users to justify the cost of keeping it open once next year’s council elections – in May – are out of the way, say the Friends.

The Friends have listed “some of the specific things the leaflet says or clearly implies and the true situation in respect of each”:

Lambeth’s Suggestion

The library was closed for building work.

The Truth

The library was closed 17 months before the date programmed for starting the work.  The date planned for reopening is 11 weeks before the council elections.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

GLL, who are expected to run the gym, also run libraries and will provide staff “in the library” to “assist library users.”

The Truth

From time-to-time GLL would have sales staff for the gym, not library staff, in the front entrance lobby on the ground floor of the building, not the library.  When they were present there would be public access to the library.  The library would not be staffed or supervised except that a library assistant or librarian would visit for about two hours most days.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

The GLL staff will be present for 40 hours a week and this “will increase.”

The Truth

Lambeth are arranging for the sales staff to be present for 40 hours a week until after the council elections. For a brief period after the gym opens longer hours can be expected as GLL attempt to sell gym memberships.  Thereafter the hours can be expected to reduce, eventually to nothing.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

Lambeth excavated the basement to accommodate the gym.

The Truth

The basement excavation and its depth were proposed years before the gym.  The excavated basement is not deep enough for a gym, that is, for users to jump or raise their hands above their heads.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

The gym “will provide an income stream for the building.”

The Truth

There is competition from leisure centres and other gyms, all offering much better or cheaper facilities in locations that are more convenient for most people.  This strongly suggests that the gym would always require subsidy to cover its running costs.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

GLL will “pay a £1 million contribution.”

The Truth

All the money being spent is Lambeth’s.  £1 million of it would be spent on improving the Council’s leisure centres if it were not being wasted on the gym.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

Capital spent on providing the gym is an investment which will generate a return in the long run.

The Truth

This is completely fanciful.  The “investment” appears to be about £5 million.  Lambeth is currently borrowing money for 20 years at 4.7% per annum.  To produce an overall profit the gym would need to generate a surplus of £400,000 a year. 

Lambeth’s Suggestion

Carnegie Community Trust is a community organisation and independent of the Council.

The Truth

The Trust was set up at Lambeth’s behest and is financially dependent on the council.  By its constitution the Trust is specifically prohibited from having voting members other than its trustees.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

Carnegie Community Trust would “oversee” the library.

The Truth

The Trust was set up to replace the library with something which is not a library.  The aim has always been to replace council funding with grants that are not available for libraries.  From the outset the Trust’s original predecessor, Carnegie project group, was adamant that a library could therefore only be accommodated as a commercial tenant paying a market rent plus service charges.

Lambeth’s Suggestion

The changes to Carnegie library would save the council money.

The library before it closed was open for 36 hours a week with two or three staff usually present.  Substituting a single member of staff visiting for two hours a day on, say, five days a week would save about      £125 000 a year.  But to set against this there would be the rent payable by Lambeth to the Trust of about £35 000 a year and the grant from Lambeth to the Trust of £40 000 a year.  Additionally, the Trust instead of Lambeth would take hire fees from desk spaces of about    £50,000 a year.  So there would not be a saving even if the astronomic cost of the gym were ignored. (Words in bold type by Friends of Carnegie Library – Ed.)

(*News From Crystal Palace called the leaflet Tosh – Ed.)

Defend The Ten Retweeted Laura Swaffield‏ @lswaffield1 Dec 13 and the accompanying photo:

“Suzanne has just recieved another load of expensively-produced tosh from Jim Dickson explaining why closing and trashing Carnegie library is great for local people” – Laura Swaffield, library campaigner, on Twitter.


From the Friends of Carnegie Library website:

As the May council elections approach, Lambeth are becoming somewhat more informative. Campaigners for the library now need to keep up and intensify the pressure for reinstatement of our library.

The latest from Lambeth is:

• They have stopped vacillating about whether the gym operator, GLL, would use the ground floor. The gym definitely will be confined to the basement even though this will not be deep enough for users to raise their hands above their heads or jump.

• Before the council elections and possibly as early as mid-February, a library service will be provided in the two rooms either side of the main entrance lobby, which are mirror images of each other. The room on the left is the one which used to be divided by a stud partition to provide the children’s library and the art gallery. One room would contain 18,000 books, leaving very little room for people. The other would contain computers and study space. There would not be any space for socialising or group activities. No staff would be based on site but a single library assistant or librarian would visit for about two hours most days.

• Gym users would normally enter the gym at basement level using a card-in-a-slot machine. Additionally, GLL would have a reception desk in the main entrance lobby and the library would be open, though unsupervised, whenever the reception were staffed. This is expected to be as much as 70 hours a week for a time after the gym opens and GLL are trying to sell gym memberships but can be expected then to drop off, eventually to nothing. Additionally, Lambeth have arranged for GLL to staff the reception for 36 to 40 hours a week from the opening of the library until the gym opens a few weeks after the elections.

• The Trust would have the main room as a hall to hire out or pay people to use. The public will not be allowed to see inside it until after the elections. The kitchen and adjoining small meetings room are being converted into toilets for the users of the hall, leaving the building without a kitchen.

The gym, library and hall are all clearly not viable but the current plans are an improvement on what Lambeth, GLL and the Trust were saying previously. The Friends will continue the campaign for reinstatement of a proper library and hope that the campaign will have even more support than ever in the run-up to the elections. (Article by Nicholas Edwards dated December 12th). (Words in bold type by News From Crystal Palace).

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