Kate Hoey MP criticises Lambeth Labour after Cabinet agrees to convert three libraries into gyms

Kate Hoey

Kate Hoey MP has criticised Lambeth Council’s decision to convert three libraries into gyms, and to sell off the site of the Waterloo library.

The Labour MP for Vauxhall has written to the Labour Cabinet at the Town Hall questioning the legality of the decision that was passed during a rowdy Cabinet meeting at Dunraven School on Monday evening.

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The letter to the Lambeth Labour Cabinet states:

“The consultation clearly must be done again otherwise it is obviously ripe for a judicial review.”

Cllr Jane Edbrooke, the Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, started a three month consultation on the future of libraries and parks in Lambeth back in February.

Art: Morganico and Nebula 'Love in the Dawn of the Apocaylpso' at the Carnegie Library Gallery, SE24

The original recommendation of handing the Carnegie, Durning and Upper Norwood libraries over to the community, somehow became a policy of letting Greenwich Leisure Ltd turn the Carnegie, Minet and Tate South libraries into mini-me gyms.

Hoey is highly critical of the library-lite solution that the Labour group at the Town Hall has now agreed to roll out:

“I just do not accept that there is not another way to preserve our hugely important libraries, and I understand that there was an internal report drawn up by the Head of Libraries which would have allowed all our libraries to remain within the financial constraints.

Has there ever been an opportunity for Councillors not just Cabinet members to consider this, especially the Councillors where the libraries are situated? If not why not, and are you relaxed that it seems the Labour group were not involved until very recently in the ongoing work to find a solution? I understand there was no formal vote at the Group meeting to endorse the report.”

Former Labour Cabinet member Cllr Rachel Heywood of Coldharbour ward has also been critical of the Lambeth Labour library cuts.

Progress Cllr Alex Bigham of Stockwell also raised concern about the plans by his right wing colleagues to turn his local library into a gym.

Cllr Edbrooke repeated the Lambeth Labour line at the Cabinet meeting last night that the massive library U-turn is a result of central government cuts.

The final head nod taken by the Cabinet was met with boos and jeers.

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Hoey has now called for the local Labour group to consult once again, and to consider an alternative to library cuts that will not impact on her constituents:

“Most of all can I say that I find the entire way this consultation has been done a sham. You have not listened to what people have said and you have automatically accepted a huge cut without any real fight back. You have not looked at it bottom up and genuinely involved the Friends groups all of whom put in such long hours of unpaid voluntary work.”

The Labour MP has also asked the Cabinet members to question their own financial renumeration at a time when they are cutting public services for residents:

“Finally in a time of difficult decisions can I ask why there has been no reduction in members’ special responsibility allowances since 2010 – and since 2014 more money is spent on SRAs with 33 Labour councillors receiving extra money – new roles like neighbourhood leads, chair of the corporate parenting board (which previously were done as part of being the cabinet member for children’s services), vice chair of planning, deputy whip – these posts were funded from the saving made on councillors no longer being eligible for the local government pension scheme.”

Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, also spoke out against the Labour group library cuts at the Cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, was not present.