Why aren’t funds from the massive development of Vauxhall going into the neighbourhood library?

Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library newsletter May 2017

An article by Ben Rymer, a member of the committee of Friends of Tate South Lambeth Library. Ben will lead a discussion on this topic at the Friends’ annual general meeting on 31st May (see below for details).

As new developments proliferate around Tate South Lambeth Library, you may have thought that contributions from property developers (known as ‘Section 106’/S106 or ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’/CIL funds) which are made to mitigate increased demand for community services from increased resident numbers, would have benefited Tate South Lambeth Library.

But you would be wrong. Despite Tate South Lambeth Library’s user numbers doubling in just two years, and narrowly avoiding closure due to Council funding cuts, our library has not seen a penny in added income from S106/CIL for several years, during which time a number of major developments have been given planning permission or have begun construction.

Sadly, this is not a new trend – no S106 was spent on Lambeth’s libraries at all for two full years in 2013/14 and 2014/15, just before the Council announced their intention to close/downgrade services of several Lambeth libraries, including Tate South Lambeth Library, due to lack of funds. This trend is clearly illustrated by Keybridge House, the new “high end” development just down the road, where a 43 square metre apartment costs a cool £515,000. Despite its proximity to Tate South Lambeth Library, none of the £2m+ S106 funds from Keybridge House have gone to support Tate South Lambeth Library, nor Lambeth’s library services more widely.

Even worse, this trend looks likely to continue into the future: the recently published Community and Local Investment Plan (CLIP), which sets out how S106 will be spent in Stockwell from 2017-2022, mentions libraries just twice, stating curtly that “[t]he council’s programme for libraries is being taken forward separately”. Strikingly, the plan was based on the views of just 651 of the 48,000+ residents who will be affected by the CLIP’s outcomes.

The wider figures for London show these issues are not unique to Lambeth. Data obtained through Freedom of Information (FoI) show a clear pattern of neglect for library services across London’s Councils when negotiating S106 agreements with developers. While only 16 out of 32 Councils responded to FoI requests for S106 library spend information, these 16 have seen S106 income of some £387m over the seven financial years prior to 2016/17, of which just £5.4m (1.4%) was directed to libraries. Of this, £4.9m came from just three Boroughs – Tower Hamlets, Greenwich and Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) – and some of these funds went to supporting the effective part-privatisation of libraries to become ‘healthy living centres’, ie gyms with a downgraded library offering. The others – Barnet, Camden, City of London, Haringey, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Merton, Richmond-upon-Thames, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth – spent no S106 funds at all on libraries over the entire seven year period, a time of drastic Government austerity when library budgets were cut to the bone, staff numbers decimated and volunteers increasingly called upon to run local libraries.

All of this is deeply concerning. We love Tate South Lambeth Library, and feel it is only right that developers who profit from local projects pay their fair share towards libraries. We hope you agree – if you do, please contact your local councillor or Council candidate to raise this important issue with them.

Our library maintains strong growth…

At the library public forum on 29th April, the head of Lambeth libraries, Susanna Barnes, reported performance statistics for Tate South Lambeth library for the year ending 31st March 2017. In those 12 months the number of visits reached 192,595, one-fifth up on the year before and double the figure just two years earlier. It was the fourth busiest public library in Lambeth, outranked only by three of the much bigger and better resourced “town centre” libraries.

… just listen to what its users say
The forum also heard the results of a survey of adult library users carried out at the library in January 2016. The responses included comments that showed why Tate South Lambeth Library is such a success.

Our library is not just a collection of books. It is a focus for the whole local community; people of all ages and all walks of life. They visit to learn, to find information and to enjoy the company of others. It has a positive effect upon mood, lifting the potential for boredom that can lead to depression. There is always something interesting going on to tempt people out of the home and walk up to the library. No other amenity could offer so much to such a large and broad spectrum of the surrounding population of Lambeth…it more than justifies the cost.

Sitting here in the library to fill this in, on an ordinary afternoon, it is full of life – children having fun, children finding a quiet place to do homework, all sorts of people using the computers, two ladies knitting and chatting, older people enjoying the newspapers – all kinds, ages, colours of people using this terrific, free-at-point-of-use library. Plus I’ve just returned one fantastic book … and have borrowed two more that I know will also be terrific. An ordinary afternoon! It’s a wonderful community facility.

Lambeth’s Readers and Writers Festival…
May is the month of Lambeth Libraries’ annual celebration of reading and writing, when our libraries host a wide selection of talks and events. .You‘ll find the full list here at or pick up the programme at the library.
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/c00bdeb2330738898b085747e/images/caf2c7f8-f53c-496e-8576-998fc0aefc6d.jpg… includes a talk at Tate South Lambeth Library by Howard Cunnell

As a boy growing up on the south coast of England, Howard Cunnell’s sense of self was dominated by his father’s absence. Now, years later, he is a father, and his daughter is becoming his son. In Fathers & Sons Howard tells the story of the years of self-destruction that defined his young adulthood and the escape he found in reading and the natural world. Still he felt compelled to destroy the relationships that mattered to him. Saved by love and responsibility, Cunnell charts his journey from anger to compassion, as his daughter Jay realises he is a boy, and a son.
Most of all, this is a story about love – its necessity and fragility, and its unequalled capacity to enable us to be who we are. Deeply thoughtful, searingly honest and exquisitely lyrical, Fathers & Sons is an exploration of fatherhood, masculinity, authenticity and family.
The talk is on Wednesday May 24th starting at 7pm (doors open at 6.30)

Our Annual General Meeting is coming up

The Friends’ AGM will be held at the library on Wednesday 31st May, starting at 6.30pm.
Here’s the agenda:
Chairman’s annual report
Treasurer’s report
Election of officers for 2017/18: chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer – and up to three other members of the committee.
Discussion on future Council funding for our library out of the levy on development in the area (the Friends’ hope was that one or more of the three councillors for Oval ward – Jack Hopkins, Claire Holland, Jane Edbrooke – would address the meeting on this question but this now looks unlikely; Jane will be on maternity leave and neither Jack nor Claire have responded to our invitation). Committee member Ben Rymer, who wrote the article at the beginning of this newsletter, will lead the discussion.

If you would like to propose other items for the agenda,, please do so now – with an email to friendsoftsl@hotmail.com or leave a note addressed to Friends of TSL at the library desk.

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