Labour’s library plans “an exercise in spin” say the Greens

Gary Hart March 24, 2016

As Brighton & Hove City Council gears up today to vote on Labour’s plans to redesign libraries in the city, Green Councillors call on residents to contact Conservative and Labour councillors to push for the plans to go back to the drawing board, describing them as “an exercise in spin”.

Hove Library to be sold?
Hove Library to be sold?

Labour’s libraries plan will see the sale of Hove library and increasing automation and staff cuts in the city’s remaining libraries.

Greens have criticised the impact of the plans on disabled and older people who rely on support from staff, and have complained that consultation on the plans has been misleading and unhelpful.

Despite being presented as supportive of Labour’s policy, further analysis of the consultation suggests among Hove Library users, opinions are divided, with only 50% for and 47% against.  Greens claim support is much lower when people understand the true impact of the plans on the library service in Hove.

Cllr Tom Druit
Cllr Tom Druit

Green spokesperson for Economic Development and Culture, Tom Druitt, said: “The costs of maintaining Hove library have been subject to limited scrutiny which suggests the true costs may not be as high as claimed.  According to the Brighton Society, for example, the bulk of the £750,000 repairs for the roof appear to be based not on essential maintenance costs but on a full historic restoration of the roof, a laudable but ultimately unnecessary expenditure.

“How can we trust Labour’s figures after leader Warren Morgan has claimed that the sale of Hove Library will guarantee a modern library service for “years to come”, when in reality the estimated £1 million sale value won’t even cover the £1.2 million extension to Hove Museum required to house the new service.  Something just doesn’t add up here.

“The bulk of running costs for Hove Library are staff, which Labour plan to cut in its vision of automated libraries where the few remaining staff are far too busy to help any customers in need of additional support.  We don’t support this either in Hove Library or in any of the other community libraries in the city.

“These are political decisions based on Labour’s priorities as to where to target Council funds.  It is Labour who have brought this down to a binary decision to close either Hove Library or 7 community libraries.  It is Labour who are deciding not to seek additional funding to maintain a historic and cultural icon.  We may be in dire financial straits now, but selling off the family silver is not the way to deal with it.”

Cllr Warren Morgan
Cllr Warren Morgan

Cllr Warren Morgan, Leader of the Council, responded saying: “When Government cuts are forcing many councils to close or privatise public libraries, Labour councillors in Brighton and Hove are keeping the city’s libraries in public hands, open for longer and we are putting them at the heart of our communities.”

“Green councillors have said they will vote against the plan, putting the future of seven local libraries at risk in order to stop Hove Library from moving from a century old building that is no longer fit for purpose and which costs a huge amount of money to run. The proposals for a new Hove Library would mean services closer to the majority of users, longer opening hours, a café and outdoor space for community events. The changes have been backed by residents in two public consultations.

“Labour has a proud record of defending and promoting libraries in the city, having overseen the building of our award-winning Jubilee Library and having opposed the closure of the mobile library under the previous Green administration. Our vision for Brighton and Hove is one where libraries form an essential part of a network of community hubs, providing an expanded range of advice and support services which will bring council and other public services closer to the communities that need them.”