Call for Labour Lambeth councillor to resign over libraries email

IN HOT WATER: Cllr Sally Prentice
Cllr Sally Prentice. Stock picture by Kaye Wiggins

Residents, library users and opposition councillors have reacted angrily to an email from a senior Lambeth council member which appears to snub community groups not run by members of the Labour Party.

Cabinet member for culture and leisure, Sally Prentice, was writing to Labour party members ahead of a meeting in Lambeth Town Hall about setting up so-called “Friends” groups to control parks and libraries. These independently-run groups are a key part of Lambeth’s “cooperative council” plans.

The message said those who were friends of Labour party supporters could attend the event, but should be “broadly sympathetic” to the party’s cause. She went on to say: “In the past many of the Friends groups have been run by people who are our political opponents!”.

In response to the email, leaked last week, Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremy Clyne called for cllr Prentice to consider her position in the cabinet.

Cllr Jeremy Clyne
Cllr Jeremy Clyne

He told the Blog today: “I will be calling for cllr Prentice to resign. She has completely lost the confidence of the people in friends groups locally.”

“It is completely outrageous and it is an insult to all the people who are already in friends groups. What this says about the co-op council is that it’s just about filling these groups with Labour cronies and yes people.”

On Thursday, Alistair Crabtree, of the Friends of Streatham Library (FoSL), wrote an open letter to council leader Lib Peck.

Friends of Streatham Library group is 'disappointed' at the comments. Picture by Matthew Black
Friends of Streatham Library group is ‘disappointed’ at the comments. Picture by Matthew Black

He said: “We are disappointed to see that the Cabinet member responsible for libraries has seen fit to comment ‘in the past many of the Friends groups have been run by people who are our political opponents!’.     We are further disappointed that FoSL was not invited to the meeting referred to in the note which says ‘friends and neighbours who are not Labour Party members are welcome to come along but they should be broadly sympathetic’.”

Streatham Conservative activist Simon Helmsley told the Blog that all friends groups should be completely apolitical.

He said: “I’m very angry about it. It makes a complete mockery of Lambeth being a cooperative council because if they are going to give responsibility to all these youth groups and then pack them with Labour people, why bother with the cooperative council?

“It’s not a party political anger here… people should try to leave their politics at the door.”

In response to the criticisms from FoSL, Cllr Lib Peck said in a statement last week: “Firstly I’d like to thank Alistair for his letter which I received this afternoon and I will be sending a response to him.

“I’d also like to apologise for any unintended offence caused. We have worked very closely with all the Friends groups in the last year, particularly through the Library Commission, and it is very much our intention to work closely with all the Friends groups in the future as we deliver our Cooperative Libraries initiative.”

Cllr Prentice today (Tuesday) apologised for any offence caused by her email: “I’ve worked closely with the friends groups in the past and will continue to do so in the future. I know what a vital role they continue to play in the success of Lambeth’s libraries and parks.

“This meeting was intended to encourage more people to get involved in their parks and libraries. It was certainly not intended to cause offence and I am sorry if it has done.”



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  4. To be honest I dont expect anything else from that woman – she is a former Lib Dem who switched to Labour when she saw the way the wind was blowing – in my experience there is no-one more zealous in a political party than the newly converted. To prove how strong and Labour she is she has to rubbish her opponents regardless of the fact that on an issue like libraries there is very little to separate the parties: all want a well funded strong library service. She is playing politics for her own careerist reasons!

  5. Rather like the punters who came round last week pleading for our votes, when we said we did not want to vote for their party they just kept sending round their troops, seven times I think in one day. When finally in the evening we said we would not vote for them they lterally walked away in a huff and slammed our gate as hard as could be. Perhaps threse power hungry miscreants thought they were the parliamentary party whip. Politics, leaves behind a very bad taste indeed, no wonder the electorate are turning their backs in disenchantment.

  6. What do you expect from a councillor who has said herself that she is interested in Power. The disregard for the electorate by the New Lambeth Labour Cabinet is truly shocking – as evident from the weak reply from the Leader. Its funny how Labour Councillor Kingsley Abrams who sticks up for all his residents gets kicked out of the Labour Party but yet there will probably be a promotion in the form of another plum cabinet role for Sally Prentice. The sooner 2014 comes, the better – we can then voter her out of Lambeth for Good along with her other New Labour colleagues .
    At least when Florence Nosegby was leading on the libraries she engaged with all political parties – although the consultation event I attended at Streatham Library was only attended by 4 residents, but then again what do you expect from this council.

  7. Am I missing the point here? I’m assuming when you quote that the councillor said, “In the past many of the Friends groups have been run by people who are our political opponents!” that these were her exact written words, as you have reported.

    Campaign groups are often accused of being political in an attempt to discredit what they are doing but I’ve never seen a Friends group accused of this. In fact both library campaign groups and Friends of library groups are there for no other reason than to champion and support a service that they see as precious and valuable. Ideally it is to promote or enhance the service but in the worst case scenarios it is to draw attention to it worth so it is not lost through short-sighted cuts.

    What has this councillor got to hide by seeking to exclude anyone who does not support her party’s line? Judgement is out on the cooperative council approach and by her actions it seems this councillor is well aware of that!

  8. Hi Charly,

    As you can see in the article, we contacted the Labour office at Lambeth Town Hall, and were sent the published statement quoting Lib Peck. While that was the Labour office’s choice, to ensure there is no accusation of bias I have also contacted Sally Prentice directly giving her the chance to respond.


  9. Have you sought a response from Sally?
    This is a completely biased account, not allowing Sally her right of reply.
    If you did seek a response, it is good practice to say the opportunity to reply was rejected.

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