Rosamund Urwin’s article on Lambeth’s libraries (Evening Standard, 14th April) fails to fairly reflect the huge pressures on council budgets. She dismisses the idea that public services are “either or”; but with a 56% budget cut from this government, that is the reality for local councils like Lambeth. Far from trying to “alienate” the people of Lambeth, we are working with them in an attempt to protect vital services in the face of these unprecedented financial pressures.
Across the country, hundreds of libraries have shut completely due to this government’s cuts. We hugely value our libraries so we’ve worked hard to keep them open despite this. Of our ten libraries, two of them, Carnegie and Minet, have closed temporarily but they will reopen next year with books, study space and computers. By expanding the range of uses for these buildings, including health and fitness activities, we can keep them open for the community.
Although Ms Urwin claims the council “seems barely to have entertained” the idea of a staff mutual running the borough’s libraries, the idea was in fact first discussed in 2012. The proposal put forward by staff this year was considered in depth by a panel including senior Council officials and an expert from an independent agency, but it was concluded that there was not a business plan in place that could deliver the significant savings required by 1 April 2016.
We didn’t want to make these changes, but we just can’t provide the same service as we do now with significantly less money. Despite this, we’ll continue to work to protect the most vulnerable people who rely on our services and find imaginative ways to keep services open.
A more factual explanation of the libraries policy is available here: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/lambeth-libraries-faq
Cllr Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council
The above is a longer version of a letter published in the Evening Standard on 19th April.