Library services in budget review: York library to close in Latchmere?

2 mins read

At the beginning of November, the Council published a note stating that in view of the budget review they needed to consider cuts in the libraries budget.
They are considering 2 options:

  1. The closure of the borough’s six smaller neighbourhood libraries (saving £1.2m a year in running costs ) with the local residents forced to use the remaining five main town centre libraries (75% of all visits).
  2. All the borough’s libraries operating reduced hours accompanied by the only closure of York Gardens (in the Labour ward of Latchmere).

Councillors on the environment, culture and community safety scrutiny committee discussed the changes at their meeting on November 15.
The Conservatives councillors all approved the proposals.

Agreed (by 6 votes to 2) that the recommendations in paragraph 3 of the report be supported subject to the addition of the following wording to recommendation (b): “it being noted that the review had excluded the closure of other neighbourhood libraries;”.

However, confronted to the Latchmere councillors (Labour) who all spoke against the proposals, the final decision included:

that no further consideration be given to the closure of the York Gardens Library, until full analysis has been obtained of the footfall at the Library, including numbers attending to access books whilst on the premises and to access the other services provided in the library, such as use of the ICT suite, the Job Club and the Homework Club;

The need of further investigation appeared after Cllrs Belton, Hogg and Speck addressed the Committee arguing against the inclusion of the closure in the York Gardens in the consultation on the savings options, asked to investigated data on new people in the area and referred to two petitions that had been received opposing the closure of York Gardens Library which would be presented to Council.
Reading through the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services, the Option 2 (proposals for reducing opening hours) could be decided while maintaining the York Garden library (saving £422,000 in 2011/12 and £563,000 if York Gardens library closed rather than be subject to reduced hours).
Regarding the cost per visitor/user the report says:

It is difficult to make completely accurate comparisons [between the libraries] as, for example; the three neighbourhood libraries each have some form of additional facility such as a hall or IT Centre, and Battersea Library houses the Reference and Heritage sections.

The report makes also interesting reading:

  • York Garden has the highest number of people living within the one mile catchment area of the library (81,466).
  • Wandsworth is 4th highest population per library in London (only beaten by Lambeth, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea). [However it does not prevent the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services to write that “Wandsworth, for historical reasons, is generously covered by library provision” and that “five town centre libraries, of high quality, would be sufficient“. It would make Wandsworth the worst borough of London in term of population per library!]
  • 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.
  • York Gardens has a high percentage of Children’s book loan (50%).
  • Latchmere Ward is ranked as the most deprived ward in the Borough.
  • Local people would consequently be harder hit by any reduction in access to IT facilities, as currently offered by the library

With all those arguments, you can guess the position of Wandsworth Council. To retain the library? Environment and culture spokesman Cllr McDermott said:

My own view is that given the difficult financial circumstances we face the option I favour would be to reduce opening hours and close the branch at York Road, but it will be up to my colleagues and members of the public to determine which choice is finally made.

Despite the very negative comments from Conservatives councillors (keen to close a library in a Labour Ward?) the decision can still be overturned. In the past three days, more than 500 residents have signed petitions to keep the library open and collection continues. You can download the petition HERE and return it by FREE POST.
A Save York Gardens public meeting will be organised for 2pm on Sunday, December 5 at the Library (click on the image below to see bigger).

Councillors in Latchmere are also encouraging residents to write to the council to expres their unhappiness with the decision.

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  1. Regarding the additional text to the final decision, proposed by Cllrs Cooper and Boswell – I read the decision document differently. It says:

    During discussion, it was moved by Councillor L.
    Cooper, and duly seconded by Councillor Ms.
    Boswell: “That paragraph 3 be amended, as follows:-

    that no further consideration be given to
    the closure of the York Gardens Library,
    until full analysis has been obtained of the
    footfall at the Library, including numbers
    attending to access books whilst on the
    premises and to access the other services
    provided in the library, such as use of the
    ICT suite, the Job Club and the
    Homework Club;

    Upon being put to the vote the motion was defeated
    by 6 votes to 2)

    That suggests to me that the above text was *not* included in the Decision – although I have to admit that I don’t understand what a “reference-up” notice is.
    Could you clarify?

    • This is true that the final decision was that there is no further consideration until the result of the public consultation, and this is the reason why the Cllrs of Latchmere ward are defending the library and trying to reinforce the case with the petition and the public meeting.
      As I understand it in the minutes, it says:
      Councillors Hogg and Speck addressed the Committee arguing against the inclusion of the closure in the York Gardens in the consultation
      Therefore, as the option was included, they opposed the motion.
      I tried to lay down the arguments (from the report itself) against the closure. There are other options to be considered, including reduce hours with no closure.
      And bear in mind that if the Council wants to fully balance the cost of keeping up the library, it is only £1 per household in the annual council tax (*) … or a share of the money brought by the CCTV camera No 225 in Grant Road (close by) which was “honoured” 2 weeks ago in the Sunday Times (page 8 of the magazine) as issuing more than 6000 tickets in a year and earning £300,000 for Wandsworth Council!
      (*) the report says (page 2): £73,000 in 2011/12 is equivalent to £0.58 at Band D Council Tax

  2. There is a consultation meeting on the York Gardens Library closure on Monday, 10 January, 6.30-8.30 pm, at the Library. There needs to be a good turnout.
    Wandsworth Council’s argument that they need to save money by closing York Gardens Library is exposed as false when it is noted that they can find an estimated £13 million to buy Bolingbroke Hospital and another amount to buy Putney Hospital to provide schools in affluent areas when their own figures show that there are enough surplus places and capacity in the existing schools.
    This is a blatant attempt to pander to the affluent and to deny those in need. York Gardens Library is essential for those children who need somewhere to do their homework and also need access to the internet. The area has the lowest proportion of home computer ownership in the borough.

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