LAMBETHWATCH OPINION: NOW YOU KNOW HOW THE LOCAL COMMUNITY FEELS (and a yellow card for Defend the Ten)

There will be a lot of anger and a lot of frustration at the comments made in the letter to Clive Betts MP by former Lambeth Labour councillors and ex-Carnegie Community Trust members Carol Boucher and Fred Taggart which appears on the Brixton Blog website.

The letter is mainly concerned with the transfer of local government assets – such as the Carnegie library – to community groups.

But much of the letter’s contents relate to what has been going on with the library and with the Trust who, as far as the local community are concerned,  have ignored their views almost all of the time.

The letter glosses over how the organisation now known as Carnegie Community Trust came into being: “In 2011 Lambeth council indicated that it could no longer maintain the local library that occupied less than half of the Carnegie building. “Instead of closure and disposal, it proposed to transfer the Carnegie to a charitable community trust that would re-purpose it as a community hub and with the council maintaining a library in a reduced space as a tenant of the Trust.”

Having outlined all the ‘organisation now known as’ “wonderful works” – behind closed doors – the letter states:

“We were, therefore, very alarmed when, in 2015 and part-way through the asset transfer process, Lambeth announced that it was placing the council’s leisure services provider – Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) – in the building.  At a meeting with the leader of the council and the chief executive we were told that this was part of its healthy living policy and in no way connected with the leisure services contract with GLL. Crucially, the terms of this new use of the building were not stated at that time.
 
A subsequent Freedom of Information enquiry by a third-party, Lambeth People’s Audit, revealed that this assurance was at variance with the facts, and that, indeed, in return for a reduction in the cost of the council’s leisure services contract, and a donation to a Lambeth-supported charity, GLL was to be awarded the Carnegie and other public library buildings in which to operate gyms.
 
 It has now transpired that this deal means that GLL will run their gym in the Carnegie paying no rent until 2022 with an already agreed rent figure after then of less than half the market rate for their space.
 
There was no Member or public debate of this proposal at the time and, indeed, the ‘gym’ possibility was not referred to in a wider consultation that the council undertook in early 2015 on its library and other services entitled ‘Cultural Services by 2020’. This decision led to considerable anger in the local community……”

Considerable anger – Yes. But what contact had ‘the organisation now known as…’ had with the local community?.

The letter goes on to state: “The Carnegie is a stunning building, one of the most handsome in the borough and is listed Grade 2.”

So who’s making all the noise that residents living above the library are complaining about when it’s not Forcia, the gym contractors and a perfectly reputable company, making it? The letter doesn’t say.

It does say: The planning consent for this work, which was opposed in hundreds of local and scholarly objections, was passed at a meeting of the planning committee in February 2017 where all the Labour members voted in favour and one other opposed.

Did the CCT object? Er – Apparently not. (Please see: CARNEGIE LIBRARY – VIEW FROM THE GALLERY Anyone who turned up to Tuesday night’s planning committee in the wilds of Vauxhall would have found three police officers outside, four more sitting behind a screen in the foyer and between 10 and 12 security guards who allocated seats on a ‘sit here’ basis…… February 9th 2017)

Towards the end the letter says: “We consider this situation to be a travesty of local democracy.”

Now you know how the local community feels.

YELLOW CARD for Defend the Ten’s Twitter comment that:
 
“Today, the wonderful @cllrheywood and @Scott4Streatham signed the pledge, as did other candidates standing in the May 3 election. Candidates from @LambethLibDems, @Lambethgp, @LambethLabour and any other parties are most welcome to follow suit.”

Defend the Ten is politically impartial. You should really mention the Tories by name. I recall being at a meeting in the Goodliffe hall at Christ church, Gipsy Hill when someone was about to have a go at the Conservatives and was stopped.

“No – no. “He helped us.” The speaker almost certainly meant Lambeth council’s Conservative opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs, who, along with Green party Cllr Scott Ainslie, have been acting as borough-wide councillors because the Labour ward councillors haven’t been doing what it says on the label.

A Conservative opposition leader helping council tenants in a Labour-dominated council. Rather says everything doesn’t it?.

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