Thursday, 23 June 2016


Lewisham Council's 4th June community showcase event - a chance to meet bidders for the planned 'community' libraries - was cancelled, leading to suspicions that maybe there were no bidders. Or not enough to go round at any rate. Was the Council's schedule slipping, or even falling apart?

 In fact, a local Forest Hill community bid has gone in for Forest Hill Library, but what about the other two? We've now learnt that there is no bidder left in the running for Manor House Library, so the whole tender process is to be re-run. Furthermore, there is no formal or completed bid in for Torridon Road Library either, just a letter of intent from local community groups. Apparently, the Council wants to go ahead in September with changing how Torridon Road is run, even without the kinds of information and guarantees that you would expect from such a momentous move. How would it be staffed? Will it be a proper library? What level of long term financial security can be projected if the idea isn't fully worked through yet? Is there even a costed business plan? The process has clearly not gone as planned, and we are left with more questions than ever. Watch this space.

We need to make sure our Council is held to account when public money and public services are at stake. On the 4th July the Stronger Safer Communities Select Committee meets to agree on what's suggested for these libraries. It's open to the public and so there's a chance to put your views. Questions can also be put in advance to the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on the 13th.

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Restore Our Library Service

Lewisham's libraries are a well loved and much used service, especially depended on by children.

It is upsetting then, that our libraries have been put through the wringer, and to show for it, issue numbers have fallen more than almost anywhere else in the country in the last five years. Lewisham Council has executed on its misbeggoten decision to cut £1 million from the budget, making most staff redundant whilst outsourcing operations to social enterprises and charities on decades long leases and contracts. And disgustingly, council advances this as an innovative 'opportunity'. It has also been pushing the money under the rug, as outsourced groups who run into cash flow problems are given large council grants, and this is now par for the course.

The Council removed staff from 4 of our libraries in 2016:

Catford, Forest Hill, Manor House and Torridon Road.

Despite the massive public opposition and the first council staff strikes here in decades, they pushed the changes through. This is not forgotten or over. This must be rectified.

Unison was right to believe that the implementation of the scheme would mean:

  • Professional staff will not be available in these libraries
  • Opening times will be reduced
  • If there are not enough volunteers, then libraries will close
  • Library usage and services to the community will be reduced
  • Vulnerable users won’t be able to access library services

They can no longer rightly be called libraries but pale imitations, community centres, thinly veiled property development operations that make a show of meeting a few basic library service functions and relying on volunteers. They stretch the remaining council staff dangerously thin, perhaps popping in to Pepys library once a week to mourn the chaos. Having made these idiotic redundancies so drastically management have had to take on agency staff. They've even trained up at cost new staff, who have handed in their resignation finding the conditions intolerable.

It has left us left three "hub" libraries still very basically council staffed, Lewisham, Deptford Lounge and Downham. Catford often has nobody but the security guards that work in the building, you can't print and can never expect to be able to print, and it is unsafe and unreliable.

In a borough this size it no longer meets our statutory right to a local, accessible, convenient library service.

These hub libraries are under threat of more unsubtle restructures by Bullock and head of the service Anthonio 'they changed my title so I'd have no chance of being sued' Rizzo. We campaign by all our legitimate means, from our right to public assembly, to arguing in surgeries and consultations, to looking into the published books of tender candidates to see what the council turns a blind eye to.

We have perhaps decreased the damange and slowed it down, but council generally has its head in the sand, and the tory government that goes without saying.

In this misinformation, privatisation age libraries are for their users desperately important.

Save Lewisham Libraries urges you to FIGHT FOR LIBRARIES!

Please sign our petition, come to our meetings and developing protests and get involved.