Lambeth council faces another embarrassing court case as library campaigners plan to seek a judicial review of its decision-making and consultation of residents.
The High Court ruled last month that the way it had conducted consultation on the future of its Cressingham Gardens housing estate was unlawful.
Now a user of the Carnegie library near Loughborough Junction is working with lawyers to seek another judicial review.
And the campaigners accuse the Labour Party of setting up an organisation dominated by party members to prevent democratic control of the library’s future.
Carnegie is one of three Lambeth libraries out of a total of ten that the council plans to hand over to its leisure provider GLL to run as gyms with unstaffed book areas.
It blames massive cuts in government funding and the need to maintain statutory services like adult and child care.
Campaigners against the plan say the council is ignoring the effect its plans will have, especially on poor and disabled people. They also accuse the council of ignoring a plan drawn up by one of its own officers that could achieve the same level of savings as the council plan without turning libraries into gyms. The council says this plan is not viable.
Friends of Lambeth Libraries, an umbrella body for supporters of all ten libraries said: “We are being forced to go to law because Lambeth refuses to listen. We have gone through all its democratic processes, and been faced with the same blank wall every time.
“It is still open to Lambeth to re-think, and accept an alternative that residents support. We very much hope it will do so.”
“There is time, as its own plan is barely worked out – and many serious questions remain unanswered.”
Supporters of Carnegie library have produced a strongly argued document that attacks the Carnegie Community Trust. They say its eight-person board contains at least five local Labour party activists who, they say, work “in close cooperation” with the council cabinet member in charge of libraries, Jane Edbrooke.
The “charitable incorporated organisation”, registered with the Charity Commission, says it wishes to work with the council and that it has consulted locally on plans to turn the library into a “community hub” that would be “owned by the community”.
It says a business plan to support an application to transfer the library to the organisation will be completed this month.
The organisation is not supporting the gym option but is seeking money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to make major changes to the building, transforming it into a “community hub and enterprise library”.
The Friends of Carnegie Library say this would involve closure of the library and its removal from democratic control.