A committee of MPs has replied to a report of the way that Lambeth council is handling the future of the Carnegie library in Herne Hill. The parliamentary select committee for housing, communities and local government said that it did not deal with individual cases, but was considering whether to look at legislation governing the transfer of assets from local authorities to community groups.
The report was from Carol Boucher and Fred Taggart, who resigned as the chair and secretary of the Carnegie Community Trust in protest at the council’s decision to hand much of the Carnegie building to Greenwich Leisure for a private gym.
They expressed alarm to the select committee that the council had subverted the intention of asset transfer legislation and Localism Act. Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee that monitors the work of government departments, and members including local MP Helen Hayes, noted the issues in the letter from Boucher and Taggart, including significant lost costs in terms of £100k of money and volunteer time by the Carnegie Community Trust.
It said it had previously looked at other aspects of the asset transfer process that hands council assets to community groups and made recommendations to government. The issues evident at Carnegie had not been presented as a problem until now.
The select committee is to examine a government report on the Localism Act 2011, which seeks to empower community groups, and said it hoped that Boucher and Taggart would submit evidence on Lambeth council’s handling of the Carnegie asset transfer process. Carol Boucher said: “It is an important step to get this on the national agenda and we are confident that our evidence of Lambeth’s deeply flawed decision to hand Carnegie to a private business instead of the community will demonstrate the need for government to amend the law to protect community groups and prevent councils like Lambeth moving the goal posts half-way through the transfer process.”