Two former Lambeth Labour councillors have sensationally announced they are backing the Green party in this Thursday’s council elections (May 3rd).
Carol Boucher and Fred Taggart – who both quit as members of the controversial Carnegie Community Trust – say Lambeth’s decision to to effectively gift a large part of the Carnegie library building in Herne Hill to its leisure services provider for a private member-only gym is indefensible.
In a statement issued on the Herne Hill Forum website the duo say:
“As life-long Labour Party supporters and ex-councillors it has been a tough decision not to support the party in the May borough elections. “We will be voting Green Party for open and accountable government in Lambeth.
“Lambeth’s decision to effectively gift a large part of the Carnegie library building to its leisure services provider (Greenwich Leisure Ltd) for a private member-only gym is indefensible.
“It torpedoed the business plan of the Carnegie Community Trust to get ownership of the Carnegie into community hands – in line with the national asset transfer legislation and council policy – to create a new multi-purpose community hub.
“The trust plan took five years and £100k to prepare and was endorsed by PWC, the council’s advisers. BOLD “It would have maintained a funded staffed library and created a large new cultural centre offering activities for all ages and groups in our vibrant community.
“Labour has never explained why it took this bizarre decision or the financial considerations on which it was based. “These remain a secret.
“Instead, it is spending £1.5 million of public money on adapting the Carnegie for this private gym and it will still retain ownership and liability for the repair and maintenance of the building fabric!. “Labour has chosen privatisation of a public building over a viable and deliverable community ownership plan.
“Many traditional Labour voters will struggle to vote for that.
“The Carnegie Community Trust had firm and deliverable plans to raise capital for the conservation, repair and adaptation of this grade II listed public building and to set up a community-wide membership scheme to elect new representative Trustees so that, when it was completed, the charity would operate in a stunningly conserved and refurbished Carnegie building.
“This would have brought us all closer together and given Herne Hill a priceless open-access asset offering something for everyone. “True community empowerment: surely a Labour value if ever there was one.”
Carol Boucher: former chair Carnegie Community Trust
Fred Taggart: former secretary, Carnegie Community Trust