Reprieve for Tate South Lambeth Library!

The two libraries (Tate and Durning) to share interim town centre library status for North Lambeth.

The outcome of the consultation on the future of Durning Library, together with the independent testing of an alternative proposal put forward by the Head of Library Services, is now available. The results of both are available below, followed by the content of the letter the Cabinet Member for Communities has sent to the Friends of Durning Library earlier today.
Consultation document for Tate South Lambeth and Durning,

– and the report on the staff mutual

Letter from Cllr Jane Edbrooke:
“Dear Friends of Lambeth Libraries,

I’d like to update you on the proposals for Lambeth libraries particularly in respect of the staff mutual proposal and the recent consultation on the future of Tate South Lambeth and Durning.

As you know, since the announcement of our Culture 2020 plans in October, we have been working with community groups and residents to ensure we have the right offer for our libraries in the future.

Our vision for cultural services must be seen in the context of a 56% cut in government funding, which will see Lambeth Council make total savings of £238 million by 2018.

This is involves a significant budget reduction for libraries and we have to focus our resources to provide the best service we can. That’s what Culture 2020 does: maintains our town centre Libraries, where the majority of library activity takes place. In recent years, we’ve built a brand new library in Clapham which has been really successful and we’re pleased to say we have now finalised our discussions with Picturehouse to agree the new Town Centre Library in West Norwood – which will be open in late 2017.

Focusing on town centre libraries meant we had to find new models for our neighbourhood libraries, as we wanted to keep these buildings in public use and ownership and where possible still deliver access to books, study space and computers.

Tate South Lambeth/Durning consultation
Following the Cabinet decision in October, we held a consultation on Durning or Tate South Lambeth becoming the interim town centre library for North Lambeth (for which Durning was considered more suitable).

The consultation told us that local people did not support the idea of Tate South Lambeth becoming a healthy living centre. Upon doing further work with Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL)on the suitability of the building and recognising the strength of the response to the consultation, we have decided to retain both libraries on a temporary basis. However, given the Council’s financial situation, there may be a reduction in hours at both. Both libraries will become the interim town centre libraries in North Lambeth, which will allow us to spend time working with residents to see how we can provide a permanent, suitable and new town centre library in the north of the borough.

Staff mutual
As you know back in November the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee asked the council to review the staff mutual proposal put forward by the Head of Libraries, Susanna Barnes. Since then we’ve been working closely with her to ensure the proposal was thoroughly considered and to take the time to do this properly. The council provided a budget to Susanna so that any expertise required, such as financial or legal support, to include in her proposal could be accessed. The formal assessment has now been carried out and we have today published this report .

The evaluation was made by Lambeth council’s Strategic Director for Corporate Resources who was not involved in the original Culture 2020 consultation, Lambeth legal and finance council officers and an expert from an independent agency called Mutual Ventures which was involved in a staff mutual scheme for libraries in York.

This team worked closely with Susanna over the past few weeks to go into the detail of the staff mutual plan.

From the outset we set the criteria on which the proposal would be judged and this was crucially based on two key factors. Firstly being able to deliver such a proposal within the timeframes set out in the Culture 2020 Cabinet Report, and secondly that any proposal must operate within the financial constraints and therefore make the required savings.

While the proposal undoubtedly presents a good vision and contains a lot of ambition, the business case was simply not robust, evidenced or able to be delivered for 2016. Indeed the assessment showed a minimum of 12 months would be needed before we’d be in any position to potentially take forward the plans. It is disappointing, given that a very similar proposal was submitted to us over a year ago that this new proposal hadn’t progressed to a fuller and more robust business case that the council could implement with confidence.

Please take time to read the report. In summary, the assessment found that while the Staff and Community Mutual proposal contained some important suggestions for the running of Lambeth Libraries, the plan was not a clear business plan that could deliver the savings required. Despite several meetings and discussions, the proposal submitted to us for assessment still contained many unanswered questions about the transfer of responsibility and would take too long to put in place. Overall the assessment judged that it would take a minimum of a year to get to a point of being able to implement a staff mutual which would of course put other council services at risk of additional cuts.

The financial uncertainties such as those around pension liability and lease arrangements could potentially add to the council’s budget at a time when we still need to find a further £90m. There is also a concern that a substantial part of the proposed savings were from over £200,000 in extra income, from a service that has missed its income generation target for the last three years.

We will continue to work with the library staff to ensure the elements of the proposal will drive continuous improvement in the library service which we value very much in Lambeth. Despite the changes to some of our libraries, others are seeing continued investment, increased opening hours and we are determined to make sure our town centre libraries are modern, popular centres for the community.

I understand that for some, this news will be disappointing but I think this is a strong offer for our libraries and the people who use them. Despite claims to the contrary, Lambeth is not closing five libraries and in the coming years will have six town centre libraries (including a new West Norwood library), our first community library in Upper Norwood, and community hubs with a library service at Carnegie, Minet and Waterloo.

I am proud that we have managed to achieve this in these difficult circumstances and I hope to work with you all on continuing to offer great library services to our residents.

Best wishes,

Councillor Jane Edbrooke

Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods”

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