UNISON calls on Lambeth council to rethink gym libraries

Lambeth Council’s announcements last week that three of Lambeth’s libraries were to house private gym facilities with reduced library services has been met with condemnation by Lambeth UNISON, the union representing the public sector workers whose work places and jobs are at risk. 

Ruth, Heaven and Marie get coding at Brixton Library's Code Club
Ruth, Heaven and Marie get coding at Brixton Library’s Code Club

Lambeth UNISON argue that the proposed changes will mean 25% of Lambeth library staff are made redundant with no evidence that this is what the public want or need: “There is no evidence that anyone wanted their local library turned into a gym. Services used by children and elderly people will be swapped for weightlifting and cross-trainers – free services will be exchanged for a fee charging gym! How many children will learn to read at the gym, how many older people will find a friendly face and where will those who attend the dementia groups or elders film groups go?”

UNISON also argue that this new proposal makes a “farce” of the six-month consultation, a process which has already been under attack as being opaque and circuitous. “The reports surprising outcome has led to a lot of internal questioning by Labour party members and Councillors who find it quite contrary to the Council’s stated desire to protect services for the most vulnerable.”

Ruth Cashman, UNISON Convenor, commented:

Libraries are more than a material resource; they are the commitment of our community to its future. They express a faith in the power of shared imagination.

Carnegie Library - one of the three Lambeth libraries facing the introduction of private gyms
Carnegie Library – one of the three Lambeth libraries facing the introduction of private gyms

However, Cllr Jane Edbrooke, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “Under these proposals no resident will be charged to use the ten proposed library services, including the three in the healthy living centres. To suggest so is frankly disingenuous and needless scare-mongering.

“On the jobs issue, the proposals would lead to an overall reduction in library staff, however that would include vacancies remaining unfilled and other staff losses, meaning the level of redundancies suggested is unlikely.

 “It is also worth noting that the redesigned library services would potentially also likely to create new job opportunities.”

UNISON are urging anyone in the community who is concerned about the plans to reduce library services in libraries to voice their opposition to the Council at the Cabinet meeting which is set to agree the proposals on 12th October 6.30pm at Dunraven School.


  1.  It’s not just UNISON that doesn’t like the library-death-by-gym idea.
    Very few people know about this at all.
    When local library Friends try to expalin, the reaction is invariably: ‘They want to do WHAT?’
    followed by “The last thing we want is a gym.’
    Followed by lots of questions that the consultation paper doesn’t have answers to.

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