2016: We are on course to save the Carnegie

Good News 
In December we presented our case to Lambeth Council’s Asset Transfer Technical Panel for the Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust to take ownership of the Carnegie Library building.   We passed, and were given the “green light” to complete the work needed to enable Lambeth to transfer the building to us.   We will be submitting the next batch of supporting documents, the Business Plan, in the Spring.   This is the break-through for Herne Hill.

A Little Bit of History
In 2012 Lambeth Council conducted a review of its library service and concluded that it would no longer provide the library service in the Carnegie building.   The number of users had been steadily declining from that for which the building had been designed and the library now occupied only part of the available space.   So rather than close the building Lambeth proposed it be adapted as an independent Community Hub to be owned and operated by a charitable trust

A group of local people, including The Friends of Carnegie Library, came together in a Project Group to explore the feasibility of that idea and, if it was judged to be viable, to set in place the necessary arrangements.   Lambeth set a number of rigorous conditions to meet before the building could be transferred, and over two years the Project Group worked to comply.   Once the proposal was sufficiently advanced the Project Group handed over responsibility to The Carnegie Herne Hill Community Trust CIO, the legal entity needed to apply for grants, to take it to completion.

The Project Group and now the Community Trust (CCT) have always been adamant that the Community Hub must contain a library.   The Hub must also take its theme from the library and become a centre for educational, cultural and community uses.   With architects and other consultants, a range of options was developed and put to the community.  Following that consultation a Preferred Option has now been agreed that embraces a library and a wide range of existing and new activities.   It specifically rules out a private nursery, private flats or a private gym.

The Way Ahead
We believe that neither preserving the status quo at Carnegie nor converting it to a gym are realistic options.   Instead the way ahead for Carnegie is for:

  • a Community Trust to take ownership of the building, to be a community-owned and operated Community Hub
  • the building to include an Enterprise Library
  • the Community Trust to work with whichever agency is chosen to operate the library in the building.   If no-one else will do it, then the Community Trust will aim to operate a staffed library to offer the same services as before

CCT was not consulted on, nor had advance notice about, Lambeth’s proposal to transfer the building to Greenwich Leisure Ltd, and has not since been in discussion with either of them about this.   We do not believe it makes sense to close the library on  31st March, to close the building for capital works (changing rooms, showers etc.) and to re-open it as a private gym with a tiny ‘library’ in it.   We have stated our opposition to that course of action.

CCT plans to recruit a fully representative Board of Trustees, supported by a membership organisation, to own and operate the building.   The aim is to take ownership of the Carnegie building as soon as possible this year and maintain it for existing and new activities.

The Vision
By the end of this government’s term of office Lambeth’s budget will have been cut by 60%.   It is inconceivable that the existing Lambeth Library Service can be unaffected.   So we believe a way must be found, while there is still time, to transfer the Carnegie Library building to a charitable and representative local trust and maintain a library in it.   To achieve this the Community Trust will negotiate with the Council to get the best deal we can for Herne Hill.   It is naïve to campaign to maintain the status quo in Carnegie when we know Council budget cuts are unavoidable.   The Community Trust now has viable alternative proposals to maintain the Carnegie as a community resource, both to serve its existing users and offer services and activities to the other 25,000 people who live or work within a 15-20 minute walk and, indeed, beyond.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Lambeth’s Culture 2020 Decision – Friday, 4th March, 2016

Carnegie Community Trust strongly opposes the Council’s plan to lease the Carnegie Library building to Greenwich Leisure Ltd to operate as a private gym.   The Council’s latest update is here.   Although provision for an unstaffed library is proposed, Carnegie would effectively cease to be a facility open and free to all local residents.   This is not acceptable to us or the wider community.

The Trust has always believed that, given the scale of spending cuts imposed on Lambeth by central government (56%), it was unrealistic to maintain the status quo in the Carnegie.  Change was always inevitable.

We still believe that our proposal to have the building transferred to a charitable Trust that is accountable to the people of Herne Hill, is the best way to maintain the Carnegie as a building that will house a library and a wide range of other new activities.   A lot of work that will enable us to set this vision in place has now been completed.

We are now considering the best way forward.   Having passed Stage 1 of the Council’s Asset Transfer procedure which would enable the Trust to acquire the building, and having been advised by Lambeth to continue this process to completion, we are investigating the implications and options in light of Lambeth’s decision with regard to Greenwich Leisure Ltd.

We will continue to press Lambeth not to proceed with its current proposal with Greenwich Leisure and, instead, to transfer the building into community ownership through the Carnegie Community Trust.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Carnegie UK Trust supports our plans for a Community Hub with library

We’re delighted that the Carnegie UK Trust supports our plans to take the Carnegie Library into community ownership and set up a community hub.  The Carnegie UK Trust is a charitable foundation established in 1913 by Andrew Carnegie to continue his legacy.

Responding to a letter from our Chair, Carol Boucher, CUKT made it clear that they cannot intervene in the Council’s plans for the library.  But, after careful consideration and detailed scrutiny, they fully support our plans and the establishment of a charitable community trust, which is in keeping with Andrew Carnegie’s vision and charitable aims. The letter says: “We strongly believe that libraries are an essential part of community life, contributing to individual and community well-being and lifelong learning, as well as providing access to computers and online services for all.  The Enterprise, Cultural and Community Hub that you propose, with its free access to books, computers and learning events for all children, and its charged for business area are in line with this view and the Trust’s thinking on the future of libraries.”  It goes on to say: “Your proposal to retain a core service that is free and open to all alongside a proposition to facilitate income generation reflects the need for libraries to think innovatively about the services they offer and how they offer them in order to be sustainable in the longer term.”

We’d like to thank the Carnegie UK Trust for their support and for taking the time to consider our proposals.  Read the full letter here.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

New Trustees Required – closing date 31st July 2016

Carnegie Community Trust (CCT) is looking for new trustees. Could you help this local charity work to achieve a Community Asset Transfer of Carnegie Library into community ownership, to regenerate and safeguard our landmark civic building, and reopen it under community management?

Community Asset Transfer is a process by which a local authority can transfer ownership of a building, usually via a lease, to a legally constituted organisation with appropriate charitable or social objectives, working for the benefit of the community.   CCT has made a formal application for Community Asset Transfer of the Carnegie building and we will be submitting our Business Case in September to enable the Council to make a final decision. The vision remains the same as in 2011, namely in a modern context to combine lifelong learning with both enterprise and social activities in a flourishing Community Hub for everyone in Herne Hill.

CCT is now moving forward from the start-up stage of testing project viability towards the challenge of running a large multi-purpose community building. Trustees are now needed who can help take Carnegie to this next stage. Continue reading New Trustees Required – closing date 31st July 2016

New activities for Carnegie Community Hub

CCT is testing some new activities at Carnegie to see what might or might not work in addition to the Library activities already established.

South London Cares…at Carnegie   The SLC programme is one new sort of event that we are trialing.   These social gatherings that ‘mix the generations’ have proved popular.   The free evening dinner parties are very well attended (diners over 60, volunteers under 30).  The food is cooked off-site and reheated at Carnegie, with a hot pudding as well as the hot main course.   If you haven’t tried it yet, why not come along?

The next dinner party is on Tuesday, 16th February from 5.30 to 8pm.   link to flyer

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Carnegie – where are we now?

Since the closure of the Library on 31 March CCT has continued discussions with Lambeth Council about the future of the building and is still on track to secure the Asset Transfer of the Carnegie building into community ownership through the Trust.

It is now clear that maintaining the status-quo at Carnegie is not an option.  The Council’s insistence on putting a gym into the building compromised the Trust’s Preferred Option for the mix of library and other uses.   Nevertheless, we now have a window of opportunity to secure the long-term future by transferring the building into community ownership.  For this to happen successfully, Herne Hill has to set aside past differences and pull together as a community.

Lambeth intend to give a lease to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) whilst CCT’s application for Asset Transfer progresses.   At the point of Asset Transfer the Trust would acquire the building from Lambeth under a long lease that would, among other things, enable it to raise capital and revenue funding for improvements, staffing and equipment.   Like others, the Trust was appalled by the Council’s initial proposal to adapt the main room in Carnegie as a gym.   So our engineers looked at the basement and advised that it could be excavated to create space for a gym at reasonable cost.   We proposed this compromise to Lambeth and GLL, who conducted their own technical assessment, and this alternative was accepted.

This means all the existing space on the ground and first floors will be available for the library and other community uses, and the Trust can deliver on its Preferred Option vision.  The gym will attract people who might otherwise not set foot in the Carnegie and we hope they will also use the library, café, community activities and enterprise centre in the building.   This will widen the sense of community ownership of Carnegie.

GLL need planning permission to develop a gym in this Grade II Listed Building; plans will be exhibited for consultation.  The change of location of the gym from the main hall to the basement demonstrates Lambeth’s recognition of the importance of the building to the community.  Our job now is to safeguard the building for the community and Asset Transfer will do this.  To achieve the Asset Transfer the Community Trust needs to present a strong (financially sound) Business Plan led by Trustees who can demonstrate good management skills and have the engaged support of the community.   A timeline showing the work of the Trust and its forerunners over 5 years can be found here.

We now all need to build on this and the Trust needs the help of everyone who has at heart the future of this wonderful building and the flourishing of our community.  The Trust will make applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funding bodies for grants to refurbish the building, including improved access, easier circulation inside the building, a purpose-designed café, relocating the lift, upgrading utility services and other important improvements.  Preliminary meetings have been held with HLF who have given indications that they will welcome an application from the Community Trust.  The present Trustees set their first goal as getting the project to a point where it was either viable or not viable.  Now we know that it can be delivered.

More trustees are now needed who will be representative of the diversity in Herne Hill and who have the skills and commitment to deliver this multi-million pound project.   A selection process will begin soon.  There will be an independently-chaired selection panel and applicants will be asked to demonstrate proactive commitment to this project as well as local knowledge, experience and skills that contribute to its workload.  To register interest in becoming a Trustee please email getinvolved@carnegiehernehill.org.uk requesting details of the responsibilities, selection criteria and an application form.   Once the project is further developed and the building is usable the Trust will then move to become a membership organisation.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Expression of Interest for Asset Transfer

On 14th December 2015 the Carnegie Community Trust presented to Lambeth Council our Stage 1 Expression of Interest for asset transfer of the Carnegie Library to the Trust. The slides we presented are here.

In principle there is a viable financial plan, and work on the Business Plan for Stage 2 of the asset transfer process is our current focus.   The Stage 1 Expression of Interest and our plans for a Community Hub and Enterprise Library were well received and we move into the new year confident that there is a real opportunity to put in place a strong, community focused plan for the whole building, including a continuing library, working with the Council and, if relevant, Greenwich Leisure, as necessary.

The presentation slides have been added to our Project Documents page.

Carnegie Community Trust CIO

Constitution of the Carnegie Community Trust CIO

In October 2015 Carnegie Community Trust was registered by the Charity Commission as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).  This is the next stage of evolution of our project group which has been working since 2012, with the support of Lambeth Council, on plans to secure a long-term future for the Carnegie Library for use by the local community. 

Our new Constitution has been added to Project Documents.

Our founding Trustees are the former members of the project group.   We plan to appoint additional Trustees through an open recruitment process with the objective of ensuring that the necessary skills, expertise and diversity are represented in the final appointments.   Trustees will be recruited with the help of independent advice, and in accordance with best practice including the Charities Commission guidance.   We also plan to invite all members of the community and interested parties to become Associate Members with the aim of building a membership base supporting the aims of the Trust.   We will publish more information about how to apply to become a Trustee and how to join as an Associate Member as soon as possible.

The founding Trustees are:

Carol Boucher

Philip Isaac

Frances Lamb

Helen Schofield

Fred Taggart

More information about the Trustees is available here.

The Next Chapter for the Carnegie Library

Well, now we know.   Lambeth has published its strategy for “Cultural Services by 2020”.   It proposes closing Waterloo and Minet libraries, providing the statutory service through “town centre” libraries and no longer providing a service at Carnegie, Durning and Upper Norwood.

Community groups are invited to bid to an Endowment Fund to run a community library in those buildings.   Lambeth will, crucially, continue to provide stock, technical and professional back-up.   None of this comes remotely as a surprise.   When Lambeth reviewed its library service in 2012 and declared the Carnegie to be a Community Hub it was clear that the status quo would not continue.   The building is a huge potential community asset that most local people never set foot in.   It costs £200,000 a year to run the building as a 31-hour a week library for around 1,500 adult and 1,000 children users, many of whom do not live in Lambeth.   This is difficult to justify given the cuts to other vital services.

So, the challenge is to retain the library and develop the building for wider community benefit as well as generating income to sustain it into the future.   The Project Group’s work aims at a Charitable Trust taking ownership of the building to run it as a Community Hub.   Our Architects’ Options for a mix of new uses were exhibited and consulted on.   Everything is on our website – www.carnegiehernehill.org.uk

Lambeth’s proposal to seek a community organisation to lead on running the library service came as a complete surprise; we always envisaged a Lambeth service in the building.   So we urged the Friends of Carnegie Library, via an Open Letter, to accept this challenge and be that community organisation – we would support them in every way.

At the Friends’ AGM it was announced, without incidentally any debate, that the Friends would, instead, ask Lambeth to transfer the building to their user group so that they can commercially rent out space to subsidise the library service.   It was not clear whether they will bid to the Endowment Fund if that asset transfer proposal fails.   But what is clear is that unless someone steps up the library service will close in 2016.

In our view, this is a risky strategy.   Lambeth will not allow the Friends to rent out space in a valuable building in order to subsidise a service it sees as marginal.   Unless the building is used for much wider community benefit it will be disposed of.   The Council has made clear both to us and the Friends that had the Community Hub project not been in development the Carnegie would have been added to the closure list.   So, the Friends’ strategy is doomed, despite assertions at its AGM that Lambeth will back down in the face of a campaign.

It is one thing to take a principled stand against cuts but quite another to adopt a position that will lose us our library.   So, the Community Hub project will press on, led by the Carnegie Shadow Trust Board (STB) while an independent process is set up with the Council to recruit the proposed Carnegie Trust.   It will apply for an Asset Transfer, develop a Preferred Option and a Business Plan.   Architects will be appointed to prepare detailed architectural drawings and funding applications.   This project proposes a major refurbishment of the building, to ensure its future as a community asset for generations to come.

If the Friends decline to bid separately to fund the professional staff and space needed to run a community library then I will urge the Carnegie STB to do the job itself.   Herne Hill must close ranks; we will get one bite at this cherry and failure is not an option!

Carol Boucher
Chair, Carnegie Herne Hill Shadow Trust Board
Friend of Carnegie Library

The Herne Hill Society published an altered version of this article in the Summer 2015 issue of their Magazine.