Sunday, 8 April 2012

Is time running out for Streatham library?

It's good to see a growing public awareness in Lambeth about the Council's plans for its libraries.

The Tradescant Road blog nails it when it observes:

"Lambeth is not going to shut any libraries - it's simply going to under-fund them to the point where most of them probably shut themselves."

I met with Lee Alley from Streatham Action to discuss the council's proposals last week, and specifically how they will impact Streatham Library, and it is clear that there is rapidly growing concern in Streatham where substantial money will need to be spent on the building, which is not being provided by the council.

You can read the consultation document here. But in a nutshell, the Council is planning to abdicate responsibility and offload its old buildings, and with it their running costs, onto the community - whilst it reserves some key powers for itself.

The proposals saddle local communities with responsibility for:

- Building management and maintenance
- Cleaning contracts
- Rates & utilities
- Refuse collection
- Insurance
- Photocopiers, stationery, equipment, cash collection
- Income generation

In a move akin to the McDonaldisation of Lambeth’s libraries, it is going to turn them into franchises, using similar principles to the privatisation of the railways and the NHS. Or in the words of the council's own consultation document:

“This contract or franchising method is widely used in both the public and private sector in everything from providing public healthcare services to popular chain restaurants.”

The proposals threaten to return Lambeth’s Victorian libraries to the Victorian era, leaving local communities with a choice between financing potentially crippling costs or closing them.

You can respond to the consultation here.

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