Carnegie excavation to start with GLL deal still to be finalised

Local author Stella Duffy (centre in blue t-shirt) who recently collected her OBE honour was among the protesting library campaigners
Protesters at the Lambeth council planning committee meeting that gave the go-ahead for work on the Carnegie library

Lambeth council is about to award a £1 million-plus contract to excavate the basement of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill while agreement on the budget for the full project is “still pending”.

The Carnegie and the Minet library in Myatt’s Fields have been closed since March last year. The council’s intention is to re-open the Carnegie as a healthy living centre with a gym in its basement and a “community library” run by its leisure provider GLL – now rebranded as “Better”.

The cost of the excavation contract is just over £1.25 million. Another £1.5 million is required to finish the project.

Local councillor Jim Dickson said earlier this year after planning permission for the conversion was approved that the cost would be “nearer £1 million than £2 million”.

Campaigners against the council’s plans for its libraries have estimated the eventual cost at £3 million.

A council report published yesterday (3 July) said that the funding for the project will be comprised of £2 million from the council’s capital receipts budget and £1 million from the joint proceeds of a profit share agreement between the council and GLL via the leisure contract with the company.

It continues: “The agreement with GLL for this is still pending and is required for the full delivery of the project, but there is sufficient funding from capital receipts to cover the value of this particular award.”

Library campaigners at Brixton Rec
Library protesters outside Brixton Rec – which is run for Lambeth council by its leisure provider GLL

The report says that the £1 million from the GLL profit share agreement “is contingent on the agreement of GLL to use this money for this purpose”.

Reductions in central government funding mean that Lambeth council must cut £90m from its budgets by 2018.

The revenue budget for cultural services, which funds services like libraries, parks and open spaces, sports and the arts, will be reduced from £10.4m in 2014 to £6.5m by 2018.

Lambeth council said that when the building reopens as a “neighbourhood library” and gym, “the library will be staffed by peripatetic staff who will work two hours per day on site”. The rest of the time the building will be staffed by GLL staff or volunteers from one of two community organisation that are seeking to take over the running of the building.

The report says that “assiduous contract management will be absolutely imperative” if the construction phase of the project is to “deliver on time and within budget”.

The timetable for the excavation of the basement is 30 weeks with work beginning as the soon as the contract is agreed. This is scheduled for 11 July, which falls within the 32nd week of the year.

Other works will take place at the same time. The council report repeats an earlier overall completion date of December 2017.

Lambeth council had said that building work at the Carnegie would begin in “early 2017”.

Defend the Ten library campaigners’ website.

Lambeth council libraries information.


  1. Did the person(s) from Lambeth Council drawing up this report swallow a dictionary? ‘Peripatetic.’ ‘Assiduous.’ ‘Contingent.’ Say it as it is without glamorising it with all these rarely used words.
    In the case of ‘peripatetic’ what they mean are staff wandering around from venue to venue, a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there. Lunch on the move. No permanent work base, probably little or no real job satisfaction either. No sooner have you hung your coat on the hook, locked up your belongings it is time to put the coat back on again and plod off to the next job. Peripatetic indeed!

  2. There has never been a suggestion that GLL would run the library, only that their gym staff would be on site. Nor is it true that the asset transferee would run the library with volunteers.

    Lambeth have never answered the question of what benefit GLL would bring to the building or service, as they would not pay any rent or have any responsibility for maintenance, etc. In fact the presence of a gym in the building, the planned internal interventions and building over much of the garden would severely limit community and income generation activities and could render quiet study and library use impossible.

    This intrusive, dangerous scheme must be stopped now.

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