25 July 2017
Following the approval of the contract for the excavation of Herne Hill’s Carnegie Library earlier this month, which saw the cost of the work increase to more than double the original estimate, Lambeth council last week denied a Green Party submission to review the decision.
The “call-in” was made by Green Party councillor Scott Ainslie on July 17th following the announcement, via the Lambeth Council website, that the contract had been awarded to refurbishment specialists, Forcia Ltd at a total cost of £1,255,130.07. (1) Construction is due to begin in August.
During the consultation period, when plans for the library's future were open to public review, an accompanying document produced by Lambeth Council stated: “The cost of the basement excavation has been estimated to be in the region of £600,000”. (2)
On July 19th Councillor Ainslie received an email informing him that his request to call in the decision to award the contract had been denied. In a statement Councillor Ainslie expressed strong objection to the grounds for this refusal, which were that “[t]he reasons for your call in do not relate to what the report is recommending”.
The Carnegie Library has now been closed for almost 16 months - since April 1st 2016 - at a cost to the council in security of £5,400 per month. Prior to its closure the library cost £13,300 per month to run, which means the increase in cost of the excavation alone would have paid to keep the library fully operational for 3 years, 8 months.
Green Party Councillor Scott Ainslie said:
"As the Lambeth Peoples' Audit has shown, Lambeth Labour have lost financial control on a council project nobody wanted. £600K was budgeted to morph the much-loved Carnegie Library into a bookish-gym. That has now been blown with costs more than doubling.
"There is now serious risk of additional cost creep as there is no firm contract in place with GLL, leaving Lambeth residents stuck with an even bigger bill. No wonder Lambeth Labour have refused my request to scrutinise their irresponsible decision."
Local Green Party campaigner, Matt Reynolds says:
"Lambeth Labour aren't listening. They are marking their own homework in a one-party state where residents are routinely ignored. This is not healthy for democracy and there is no doubt that people will be making their feelings clear in the council elections in May 2018."
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(2) Carnegie consultation document dated June 21st 2016