Lambeth Council is spending more money on keeping local libraries closed compared to what it would cost to keep them open.
A Freedom of Information request submitted by The Guardian shows that the bill for a private security firm is costing the Council up to three times more than the actual running costs.
The Labour run Council closed the Carnegie and Minet libraries on 31 March. It plans to re-open the two sites as ‘healthy living centres’ – private gyms containing some bookshelves, aka book-ish gyms.
Local residents occupied the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill when it closed, in an attempt to manage it as a community run public library. Lambeth Council responded by delivering possession orders and bringing in a private security firm to try and secure both sites.
The Guardian FoI covers the period 31 March to 15 April, 2016. Lambeth Council admits that it spent a total of £35,392.68 on security for the two sites. This works out at £2,212 per day. The 2014-15 Lambeth Council budget gives a daily figure of £874 to manage both libraries.
Brixton Buzz spoke with some of the Carnegie occupiers during their ten day period of protest. They explained how the private security firm was paying staff £6.70 an hour. Lambeth Council prides itself on being a London Living Wage organisation. The current figure for a London Living Wage is £9.40 an hour.
It remains an absolute mystery as to why the Labour Council is keeping two public libraries padlocked in the absence of any business plan for the future. The Council has claimed that Greenwich Leisure Ltd will open the book-ish gyms sometime next year. No business plan has been made available to show how this might be feasible, let alone desirable for local residents.
Meanwhile the staff mutual plan put forward by the current Head of Lambeth Libraries was rejected by the Council. Susanna Barnes’ proposals would have kept all ten libraries open in the borough, whilst also delivering a financial saving.
As well as the closed Carnegie and Minet libraries, Lambeth Council is selling the Waterloo library, and dumping the Upper Norwood library on to a Trust. The Tate South and Durning libraries will also close, once a single site in the north of the borough can be found as a replacement.