2 April 2017
On the eve of a protest organised to mark the first anniversary of the closure of Herne Hill’s Carnegie Library, The Green Party has called on Lambeth Council to scrap its deal with Greenwich Leisure Limited to convert a number of libraries into ‘healthy living centres’.
The Green Party urged the council to instead back the plan put forward by Lambeth’s current head of library services, Susanna Barnes. (1)
Work has yet to begin on the library conversion at the Carnegie Library on Herne Hill Road, which includes the installation of gym facilities and which, once re-opened, will operate with much reduced staffing levels. Barnes’ alternative proposal would allow the facilities to continue operating as libraries and mean that a “core service would be maintained in every site and accessible to the local community”.
The Green Party petition follows the Council's response to a Freedom of Information request, highlighted by the People's Audit(2), that no competitive tender was put out for the healthy living services when the original deal was agreed with Greenwich Leisure Limited. Instead, they argue, it was made on the grounds that GLL already offered leisure services elsewhere in the borough. The People’s Audit also state that the GLL contract has been changed significantly since it was signed, such that Lambeth Council is now in breach of Public Contract Regulations (2015). (3)
Green Party Councillor Scott Ainslie said: ‘The Council’s deal with GLL does not stand up to scrutiny. It is less likely to generate the savings the council said were essential, than the plan put forward by the Head of Libraries, which would have kept all the libraries open and operated by qualified staff.’
Bruno Combelles, Herne Hill Green Party campaigner, said: ‘Following decades of under-funding by the Council, it seems that libraries are now being used by Cabinet members as bargaining chips to gain favours from suppliers behind closed doors. Lambeth needs to start listening to the concerns and needs of local residents and community groups before making irreparable damage to public assets.’
Bruno Combelles - 07812540031