Friday, 14 April 2017

Shocking Book Lending Stats for Lewisham Libraries

Lewisham Library statistics for attendance and book issues have just been released in response to a request to Rob Wilson, Minister for Libraries. These statistics show that book lending in Lewisham has decreased by a shocking 45%! 

2009/10 figures are important in that they show the library stats before any of Lewisham libraries were handed over to voluntary organisations and businesses to run.

These statistics demonstrate very clearly that volunteers cannot deliver the same professional, proactive and knowledgeable service as trained library professionals to library users, resulting in this dramatic drop in book issues.

2015/16 Visits:    2,078,294
              Issues:     635,063

2014/15 Visits:    2,081,986
              Issues:     770,898

2009/10 Visits:    2,028,350
              Issues:  1,146,461

It is the young people of this borough who are being let down most. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between reading for leisure and academic achievement in young people, so with this drop in professional library staff and book issues, is it any surprise that Lewisham does relatively poorly on education indicators. 44% of 19 year olds have no qualifications, the third highest of any London borough. 63% of pupils receiving free school meals do not get five good GCSEs (5 A*-C grades, including English and Maths), compared to a London average of 54%.

We believe the Mayor and Lewisham Council have badly misled the public in presenting the alternative 'community library' system as being as efficient and comprehensive as the council-run library service.  These statistics are a stark reminder of what we have lost. We must guard against any further downgrade in our public library services!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

V22 wins Manor House library contract

Sadly, last week, Mayor and Cabinet agreed to hand over Manor House Library to an arts business, V22,  in spite of community and campaign efforts to keep our library run by trained council staff. 

We have serious concerns about V22 and its subsidiaries, as do other people working in the art world who have been tracking its directors and their links to mining companies and property development, using artists and cheap studio provision as a way of regenerating an area, which profits who? Mainly the property developers...

Read the following article by Stephen Pritchard

Is it ethical that a private company listed in the Isle of Mann, who will not be paying any tax on its profits, gain from running a beautiful listed building owned by the council?! We say NO! 

The campaign will continue to monitor all the 'community libraries' that have been handed over to third parties, making sure that they do actually comply with the 1964 Libraries Act by providing 'an efficient and comprehensive library service.' 


TODAY: Don't forget to join the Re-open our libraries now! PROTEST for Defend the Ten on the anniversary of the occupation on the steps of Carnegie Library in Lambeth today at 1pm!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Library Protest 5pm this Wednesday

Join our last-ditch protest this coming Wednesday, 22nd March, when the council will announce which enterprise will take over Manor House Library.

The council is willing to allow a host partner the privilege of leasing the building (for twenty-five years!) and pay no rent, have a special discount on the business rates, to rent out the rooms with the rents going to the host partner, while the council tax-payer still funds the mortgage and some maintenance, loses the business rate and makes no money from the publicly funded investment. What genius came up with this? The preferred community organisation of the council is V22, but the public's choice by consultation was Arts Network. Why is the council ignoring public wishes, if the consultation was genuine?

2 out of 3 of V22's subsidiary companies are profit-making. If and when their position on the stock market collapses, this will bring a wrecking ball to our library service. The foundation may have charitable aims but is not a charity as yet, but has been 'in the process of registering' for more than a year. Handing over public services to a private company is scandalous!

Come along to the protest at 5pm outside the Town Hall on Wednesday 22nd March when Mayor and Council rubber stamp this calamity.

Alongside our protest will be parents and pupils and teachers from Forest Hill School, where they have been forced to take strike action. The Mayor and Head say the cuts imposed as conditions of the council's loan, 20% cut to staff budget, sacking 15 teachers in the next term, will produce a 'lean', mean, teaching machine. The reality is it would put the school in a tailspin. The library campaign stands in solidarity with this campaign.

There will be a social in the Catford Constitutional Club after the protest.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Manor House Library Protest

A campaign stall was set up outside Manor House Library last Saturday to protest against the outsourcing of services and the forthcoming decision by Mayor and Cabinet as to its future.

The decision to hand the library over to a private company will most likely be approved next Wednesday. The company will be benefiting from what belongs the people of Lewisham, making a profit, while paying the Council a peppercorn rent. Meanwhile, our library service is downgraded.

Below you will find a letter sent from The Users and Friends of Manor House Library to the Mayor weeks ago outlining their concerns. They have yet to receive a reply. Perhaps he is too busy fending questions from the public and media regarding the rather dodgy Millwall housing development...

Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham                                              24th January 2017
Mayor’s Office, 
Civic Suite,
Lewisham Town Hall, Catford,
London SE6 4RU

Dear Mayor Bullock,

Thank you for your letter dated 11th January 2017 relating to Council budgets, Council funding, Income & Spend and Central Government’s spending assessment.  We appreciate the gravity of the overall situation.
However, in relation to the Library & Information Service, downsizing to a “preferred model” system of “Community Libraries” we have to ask where is the value for money and where is the provision of a decent Service?
 We know this is not what Lewisham’s public library customers are experiencing.
The Interim Management provision for Manor House Library has flagged up a regular occurrence of machinery breakdown – yesterday, a fault arose with the heating boiler such that the Children’s Centre in the basement was unable to heat the space.  Regular breakdowns with the Self Issue Self Return machines occur as do the on-line facilities. And the breakdown in lights continue apace.
The customer is unable to pay for regular library services such as fines, reservation fees, and is unable to use a pay-only photocopier/printer as there is no facility for payment for any of these services.
Furthermore, there is the ridiculous system that reserved books/media are unable to be collected by the customer at Manor House Library who is thus obliged to collect the item at The Age Exchange branch in Blackheath or at Lewisham Central Library (whichever is the nearest for the customer.)
Under these conditions, is it any wonder users would be discouraged from using the Manor House Library thus contributing to the idea that nobody uses libraries any longer. Is this the reason our request for up-to-date CIPFA statistics from January 2015 have been officially refused by the Library and Information department?.
In fact, Manor House Library is not, and has not since 21st October 2016 operated as a functioning Library and Information Service outlet.   Frankly, it discourages users and even deters some laptop computer owners because of its weak Wi-Fi links!

In terms of the anticipated transfer of responsibilities to the incoming ‘Host Partner’ who may engage a volunteer force to work the library space, will these people be required to undergo DBS checks?  We understand that paid Public Library Staff are not required to undergo these checks.  This was an issue that both Cllr Mallory and yourself were surprised to learn.  Has any form of clarification been sought?  Patricia asked Ms Buckton about this at our meeting on 10/12/2016 at the Manor House and was assured the council would take responsibility for this.  Is this the case?
We assume the Host/Partner will be required to provide the volunteers with Induction training for all the aspects that may involve, including Fire drills, Evacuation techniques, Health and Safety matters, and Public Liability responsibilities as is required in good practice/management of Public Spaces.

We have recently been made aware of the input of other money from other departments to assist this kind of ‘outsourcing’ of once-public services.  So-called “Small Grants” and other ‘free rides’ have been provided for some Community Library management organisations.  As for the internal structural damage highlighted by The Pinnacle Report this is intended to be rectified by the Host/Partner. It is hoped the selected Host/Partner is able to fund these requirements.
However, we refer to the Pinnacle Report; Introduction, (p2 of 12) in particular paragraphs 7 and 8 which although advisory are pertinent to the long-term sustainability of such a valuable Grade 2-star listed building.  Did any of the prospective Host/Partners understand this responsibility or were they blinded by the comfort of a rent-free Grade 2-star-listed building and a Business Rate holiday until May 2018?  We have just discovered, today in fact, that the Council has employed a company to be responsible for various works.  Will this be another cost to tax-payers, in spite of the building not being managed by the Council?

A great deal of public money was invested in the building, as you yourself remarked.  Is this investment now to benefit a private company?

Yours sincerely,

Patricia and Peter Richardson.

Cc   Heidi Alexander M.P.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Decision Delayed on Manor House Library, Protest Postponed

Lewisham's Mayor and his Cabinet has yet again delayed its decision as to which bidder our wonderful Manor House Library will be handed over to - giving no reason for the delay. Perhaps the council are becoming more nervous of rushing through decisions after criticism over the Millwall fiasco...

Save Lewisham Libraries was due to lobby the Mayor and Cabinet this Wednesday before the crucial meeting, but this will now be postponed until we have yet another date.

Meanwhile, the campaign will organise to protest against the Council's plans, starting with our regular planning meeting - 7pm Wednesday 8 February at the Catford Constitutional Club.  

Join us at this crucial moment in time to save Manor House Library!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Urgent: Send Letters Of Protest To The Mayor & Cabinet

Only a few more days before Lewisham's Mayor & Cabinet make a decision about which bidder shall win the contract for Manor House Library. Please add your voice of protest to others who stand against third-party organisations running libraries that belong to the people.

Please find below an example template to base your letter on. Decision is to be made on 8th February so this is a critical time.

Template for your letter of protest:

To Lewisham Councillors and Mayor Sir Steve Bullock,

As a Lewisham resident and regular library user, I am writing to urge you to reconsider the plan to outsource Manor House Library to a third party.

I do not believe that the plans as they stand and the bids from the shortlisted businesses are adequate in assuring the literacy, education and freedom of opportunity of future generations in the provision of library services.

Public libraries are needed to provide access to a shared, living culture. Without the grounding provided there, free of private interests, the prospects of Lewisham's children and young people will be compromised. Recent research has shown that reading for pleasure is a major factor in academic success, over social class or parent's education. Why does the Mayor and Cabinet feel that they can gamble with this essential part of our children's learning and social well-being?

If free access to local culture is withdrawn from aspiring individuals and young families and passed into the hands of the few or those who are themselves precariously positioned, it will not thrive.

Is this system of Community Libraries really value for money? Manor House library has had a huge amount of investment in recent years; to hand over to a third party for a peppercorn rent and free business rates is surely a waste of public money. I am also concerned that under the plans in the bid from V22, community rooms are to become private studios for artists and not for the public benefit or use. 

The council has a statutory duty  ‘to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons’ - can the current proposals guarantee this?

Please reconsider your plans and use the reserves the council has to keep Manor House open for all and run by trained and accountable Council staff.

I urge Mayor and Cabinet to rethink your plans to outsource such an essential service.

Yours sincerely,


Send your letters and emails to:

Mayor Bullock,

Deputy Mayor Alan Smith,

And your councillors on the cabinet:
Chris Best (Sydenham - Health, Wellbeing, Older People);
Kevin Bonavia (Blackheath - Resources);
Janet Daby (Whitefoot - Community Safety);
Joe Dromey (New Cross - Policy & Performance);
Damien Egan (Lewisham Central - Housing);
Paul Maslin (New Cross - Children and Young People);
Joan Millbank (Telegraph Hill - Third Sector & Community);
Rachel Onikosi (Sydenham - Public Realm);
Joan-Reid (Lewisham Central - Chair Planning Committee B);

And Mayor & Cabinet Secretary/Support Officer Kevin Flaherty;

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Forthcoming Campaign Actions and Meet ups

Protest - Lobby of Mayor & Cabinet         

5.30pm Wednesday 8 February 2017 at Lewisham Town Hall

Campaign organising meeting   

7.30pm Wednesday 8 February 2017 at Catford Constitutional Club


Speak Up for Libraries conference          

10am-4.30pm Saturday 18 February 2017                                          

Unison Centre, 130 Euston Street, London NW1 

The council has delayed its decision on which bidder will get the contract to Manor House library until Wednesday February 8th. You are welcome to join us on Wednesday the 8th February, 5.30pm, the evening of the decision. A few of us must be there to protest to the Mayor & Cabinet members trooping in, and proffer a viable alternative. After that from 7:30pm we’ll have a planning meeting in the Catford Constitutional Club in the downstairs lounge, (just up the road, down an alleyway) to put together and rehearse the next action. 

Before their decision, we will be writing to the Mayor and Cabinet, as well as informing press of the scandalous story. We’ll endeavour to be outside Manor House and Catford Library a couple of times in the next few weeks raising awareness.

Templates for letters of protest will be available here soon.

We are planning to attend the Speak up for Libraries conference.  If you can afford the £20 early bird rate that ends on the 18th January, please get a ticket. Join us and help us mobilise other campaigners for future actions.

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.