Hall of shame

Author: Cyril Richert

There is only one word I can use to define the idea of the Council to close York Garden’s library: shame!

A library used by children and a recognised service in a deprived area

The Council knows that the library service is already not magnificent in the borough albeit being a community focal point and a very important service, especially for people with limited transport or mobility.

The report presented before the Culture Committee acknowledged that

  • York Garden has the highest (amongst all libraries in the borough) number of people living within the one mile catchment area of the library (81,466).
  • Wandsworth is already 4th highest population per library in London (thus few libraries).
  • York Gardens has a higher percentage of Children’s book loan (50%).
  • York Gardens has a hall for hire to the local community: that functionality would disappear if the library closes as there is no plan to replace it.
  • Latchmere Ward is ranked as the most deprived ward in the Borough (and the removal of the library will accentuate the situation).
  • Local people would consequently be harder hit by any reduction in access to IT facilities, as currently offered by the library (a survey showed only 30% of homes in the ward having a computer).

In addition, a recent survey confirmed that the library comes at the highest from all other part of the borough for children thinking it helps them to be better at school.

The case to close the library

The current argument laid down by the Council, to justify the closure of the library, is that York Gardens is the borough’s least used small library for book lending and the most expensive to run in terms of net cost per visit. However it does not consider the other services such as: community focal point, IT facility, children usage…etc.

The second argument that is it within close distance from Northcote road library made me laugh. I was wondering who in the Council invented that idea? For a matter of interest I walked from the Northcote road library to the York Gardens’ one. It took me more than 30 minutes, crossing 2 extremely busy road: Falcon Road and Lavender Hill (same argument for the Battersea library actually, albeit closer). I wonder who, knowing the road-free location of the York library, will dare using this argument to explain that children would easily go to another library! [4]

About £74k saving

According to the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services, the Council would save £219,000 per year by closing the library.

But in view of the recent outcry to scrap all community services from the ward, they suggest:

  • some alternative services being provided at the neighbouring York Gardens one o’clock club and children’s centre;
  • provide young people with IT facilities for homework and other school tasks, along with library outreach services for younger children;
  • the home delivery service will also operate a lending service for people unable to get to another nearby library because of mobility difficulties.

Those service (cost to retain some service estimated by the report to £92,000)  would reduce the saving to £127,000 per year. [1]

On the other hand, the council could save £53,000 per year just by reducing the opening hours [2]

Therefore the difference between closing the library and reducing the opening hours is just £74,000 per year.

This amount is equal to an increase Council Tax of less than 59 pence extra per year for a Band D property (and that’s before any Housing Benefit is taken into account). [3] Just remember that the inflation (RPI) was 8% over the last 3 years, while the increase of Council Tax was 0%, which means a decrease in real cost since 2008 (~£30).

It represents also only a share of the money brought by the CCTV camera No 225 in Grant Road (just a few yards away from the library!) which was “honoured” last month in the Sunday Times (magazine) as issuing more than 6000 tickets in a year and earning £300,000 for Wandsworth Council!

Wandsworth-based historian Sean Creighton has written a detailed analysis of the York Gardens Library situation (full document here) where he concludes that: “The possible closure of York Gardens Library is a targeted and disproportionate assault on an area of high social deprivation” and the real reason is “the fact that the building can help the Council resolve other service issues“.

Public meetings and consultation

A public meeting was organised at the York Park library by the Latchmere councillors (Labour) in the 2 December 2010.

Wandsworth council has acknowledged the receipt of more than 1,000 signatures on petitions that oppose the closure of York Garden Library.

The campaign against the closure has set up a website where you can find other information and actions: http://saveyorkgardens.com

It includes a documentary from Channel 4 News showing that the number of people living in poverty in Britain is set to rise by almost a million by 2014 and displaying Latchmere ward as a deprived area, threaten to be hit even harder by the closure of the York Gardens Library (view HERE).

The first meeting officially organised by the Council was at York Gardens library Thursday 9 December between 2.30pm and 4.30pm (yes, good idea in the middle of the working day!).

A second meeting will take place at York Gardens on January 10 between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Details of the times and venues of all the other meetings are available at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/libraries.

Additional information in the press review HERE.

What Can YOU Do?

  1. Download and fill in the Public Consultation SurveyThis is the most important thing you can do.  The Survey is your opportunity to say what you feel about the various options.  The more of these that the Council receives, the more likely that they will take notice.  The Survey is anonymous, but must be emailed or posted to the Council.  You can also drop the form into the library itself.
  2. Come along to the Public Consultation Meeting on 10th January from 6.30pm until 8.30pm.  Again, the more people that turn up to this meeting, the more chance that the council will take notice.
  3. Write to the leader of the Council, Edward Lister (elister@wandsworth.gov.uk), to tell him what you think.
  4. Download and sign the Petition form.  Petitions are not nearly as effective as filling in the Survey form, but they may help the cause.

The consultation will run until Sunday, February 6. Comments and suggestions will need to be submitted by this date. To find out more visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/libraries. Comments and suggestions can be submitted online or by completing the special consultation document available at all the borough’s libraries.

Even if you do not live in the ward, and do not use the library service, you should feel concerned by this idea and shout to the Council: shame on you for considering such plan!

[1] Closing only York Gardens library would generate an annual saving of £219,000 or £127,000 if the children’s library and I.T. tutor elements were retained. – page 2 of the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services on a review of library provision in the Borough and resultant options for savings.

[2] Library Reduced Opening Hours; proposals for reducing opening hours across the Library service as outlined in paragraph 37 would save £462,000 in 2011/12 and £616,000 in a full year (reduced to £422,000 in 2011/12 and £563,000 in a full year if York Gardens library closed rather than be subject to reduced hours – page 2 of the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services on a review of library provision in the Borough and resultant options for savings.

[3] The report says (page 2): £73,000 in 2011/12 is equivalent to £0.58 at Band D Council Tax

[4] And I am not even quoting Jane Ellison, Conservative MP for Battersea, who explained that the best way to cope with the situation was for everyone (every volunteer?) to work together to replace the service (free of charge – that’s the Conservatives Big Society!). In other words, please understand that if you could lend you books to others for free, there is no need of a “costly” library service! (I give another idea: if everyone could do a rota to clean/repair the streets themselves, the Council could save also a lot of money…etc – yes it is called community service)

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