Our local libraries are under threat

GREENFORD, HANWELL, NORTHFIELDS, PERIVALE, PITSHANGER, WOOD END & WEST EALING

The council is proposing to cut funding for seven out of 13 libraries in the borough. It has  put forward the idea of Community Managed Libraries (CML).  In the CML model the community charity organisation is responsible for the financing, operation and staffing of the library.  If no charity groups come forward with an appropriate proposal the relevant libraries will close.

This funding cut comes despite Ealing Council’s recognition of the importance of local libraries for local school children on its own website: 

“The encouragement of reading and its effect on literacy skills is well established and the borough has maintained its approach of having a local library service for all to use.  Schools, for their part, encourage pupils to use the local library service.”

Other boroughs are seeking different ways to implement savings rather than lose a valuable resource used by so many in our communities, especially as libraries:

  • are one of the few places people can go without having to spend money
  • provide a social environment that brings communities together, enhancing understanding and helping combat isolation
  • equip people for self-improvement 
  • provide accessible online facilities essential to those applying for benefits and jobs, searching for employment or even doing their homework.

West Ealing Neighbours’ response to these proposals

David Highton, Chair of West Ealing Neighbours says: “The library in West Ealing is not only an essential resource, it also provides a community hub right in the centre of our neighbourhood.  As a neighbourhood group we have considered the Council’s proposals and the impact they will have on our local community.  We fully accept the Council faces difficult decisions as a result of central government cuts to its funding. Nevertheless, the exact way in which the Council implements these cuts requires it to make choices. We feel it is important to note that other London councils have made different choices and have decided not to risk possible library closures. Therefore, after detailed examination of the Council’s plan we do not feel we can support the Council’s CML proposal and strongly oppose the closure of local libraries.  We would encourage all residents in the borough to stand together against cuts to our library services and to make their opinions known to our councillors.”

Members of the West Ealing Neighbours committee have attended and contributed to various consultations on library services within the borough.  At the public meeting on 29th March 2019 – attended by Carole Stewart, Asst Director of Arts, Heritage and Libraries and Cllr Jasbir Anand   cabinet member for Business and community services- many questions about the sustainability of the proposed CML model were left unanswered, especially regarding the financial burden that would be placed on any charity group taking over a library.  More details were promised in the “Invitation for Expression of Interest” paperwork which was made available to the public on 17th April 2019.

The committee met again after the release of these documents and still had concerns over the financial commitment required – any charity would be responsible for the business running costs  – utilities, insurances, maintenance, equipment contracts, lease, rent and rates (albeit at the reduced 25% charity rate).  The full financial picture was not made clear in the documents with many elements “to be determined”.  Exact costs for the West Ealing site were still unknown but these could be in the region of the £98,000 figure for ‘indicative costs’ stated in the Council’s library strategy document.

In addition to the financial considerations, further independent research revealed serious challenges faced by libraries staffed solely by volunteers.  Studies showed that other community models have fared poorly because of inadequate time and training to bring volunteers up to speed.  In all community models, sourcing and keeping the numbers of volunteers required is a constant challenge.

The volume of volunteers required to ‘replace’ the equivalent of staff jobs is much greater, as are the numbers requiring ongoing training, criminal record (DBS) checks etc.  Successful community libraries tended to be those which had full time library staff working alongside volunteers, not the model suggested by Ealing Council which has one council staff librarian visiting a community library once every 2 to 3 weeks.  The committee doubted the sustainability of the model and was concerned about the impact on the local community if it lost this valuable resource. 

Members of the committee attended the public meeting on Wednesday 8th May 2019 at Ealing Town Hall jointly organised by Ealing UNISON in collaboration with the Save Ealing Libraries Campaign.  As well as considering the potential job losses these proposals would bring, the meeting heard from individuals regarding the benefits a local library offers its community.  Further information about challenges facing community libraries around the country was also given, including:

  • 85% drop in visits at East Barnet Library since becoming a volunteer ‘partnership’ library *
  • CML in Essex only opens for 6 hours per week **
  • volunteer libraries based in poorer parts of Sheffield are showed a big dip in usage across all loans ***
  • catastrophic decrease in book loans in Doncaster (one library which used to have over 17,000 book loans per year when run by staff was down to just over 1,200 in 2018 when run by volunteers) ****
  • In Enfield over a 5 year period the number of full-time staff has fallen from 17.7% from 19,688 in 2012-2013 to 16,194 in 2016-17, while the number of volunteers has increased 42.6% from 33,685 in 2012-13 to 48, 025 in 2016-17.*****

At the public meeting there was a majority vote to oppose the Council’s proposal.  There was also a sense that a campaign to save all libraries would have more impact than to champion them individually.

You can help save the libraries but urgent action is needed:

1. Spread the word – a lot of people don’t realise this is happening – talk to your contacts and social networks and let them know.

2.  Complete the consultation before May 17th – either online or pick up a copy from the library.

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/201042/current_consultations/2548/have_your_say_on_the_draft_ealing_library_strategy

3.  Sign the online petition.

https://www.change.org/p/save-ealing-libraries-from-being-outsourced-from-being-managed-by-community-volunteers-save-library-jobs

4.  Write to your councillors – email or letter – and keep chasing them for a reply.

https://ealing.cmis.uk.com/ealing/Councillors.aspx

5.  Keep up to date with the campaign and be active – e.g. attend the march organised for 25th May at 11am, starting at Greenford.

For more information https://ealingunison.org.uk  and click on the Libraries link.

6. Visit WEN’s blog http://www.westealingneighbours.org.uk/ where we will publish regular updates on this.

TIME IS SHORT!

Our Councillors – the people WE vote for – will meet for the public vote on the proposal on Tuesday 16th July.  Decisions tend to be made long before the public vote so our chance to let them know what we think is NOW!

It’s still possible to make a difference and secure the future of our libraries, not just for today but for generations to come.

*  data from FOIs submitted by “Save Barnet Libraries”

** info from “Save Essex Libraries”

*** FOI request, figures from Sheffield City Council for period 2014-2016

****  FOI figures January 2019

******  Latest CIPFA figures

Public consultation about plans to redevelop the Majestic Wine and Halfords site opposite West Ealing station

The residential property group, as they now call themselves, A2Dominion has bought the site 41-42 Hastings Road – Majestic Wine Warehouse and Halfords. It plans to redevelop the site to include a large proportion of affordable housing. It has a public consultation about its plans on Tuesday 21st May 3-8pm at the Jigsaw Marketing Suite on the ground floor of Sinclair House – the tall residential block next to the Drayton Court Hotel.

Public meeting on saving Ealing’s libraries on Wednesday 8th May 7pm at Ealing Town Hall

‘Ealing UNISON in collaboration the Save Ealing Libraries Campaign and a number of Library campaigners have jointly organised a Public Meeting which will take place on Wednesday, 8th May, in the Liz Cantell Room, Ealing Town Hall, from 7 pm to 8.30 pm. We are in the process of contacting a number of key literary figures and political activists, committed to the cause of saving public libraries. We are still open to having speakers with political ‘clout’ (forgive the expression) from Ealing and beyond, who can pull audiences so please do get in touch with me (Grace Akuba) directly if you would like to take part.’

You can read more about this campaign and the petition which has over 4,600 signatures here

Bad-tempered public meeting on future of West Ealing Library

This was about the most bad-tempered meeting I’ve been to, though I’m told the Northfields Library meeting was worse.

The meeting was part of the Council’s consultation about its new library strategy. Underlying the strategy is the need for the Council to make expenditure cuts in order to balance its budget. (Quite a lot of the argument was about whether the Council needs to do this and heavy criticism of its dealings with developers over how much they pay the Council for maintaining and improving local infrastructure – doctors surgeries, transport, leisure facilities, libraries, parks etc).

The meeting was facilitated by an outside organisation.  Carole Stewart from the council who is Asst Director for Libraries and Cllr Jasbir Anand the cabinet member responsible for libraries were both speakers at the meeting.

These are the points I noted;

  • The consultation runs until 17th May and the cabinet will  decide on the final strategy on 16th July
  • Expressions of interest from community groups interested in running a library open on 29th April and  close 31st May
  • For every £1 in 2010 from central government the council now gets 36p
  • In 2017/8 the total cost of running the library service was £3.9m.  In 2018/19 it will be £4.4m.. I don’t know why the increase.
  • The library service must reduce its costs by £1.142m over the next 4 years.  Moving to the community managed libraries would save about £800k
  • The council will keep running 6 libraries and seeks to have 7 community managed ones including West Ealing. The 6 are town centre libraries in Acton, Ealing Broadway, Southall and Northolt and two in areas of greatest social deprivation – Southall and Northolt.
  • The council will be responsible for the books and adding stock etc, the IT and computers, and will have a support team from the council run libraries to help the community managed ones.
  • One of the audience said there are 400 community managed libraries in the UK – out of a total of just over 4000 ie 10% are community run
  • 13 London boroughs run 37 community managed libraries between them. (So Ealing looking to have 7 is a high figure in comparison.  A number of people pointed out that some London boroughs were investing more in libraries and not less.)
  • A prospectus for each of the 7 libraries will be issued next week beginning 1st April.
  • There will be a conference about community managed libraries on 3rd April at University of west London
  • The current cost for running West Ealing library is £258,000 with £123,000 for staff and £25,000 for rates.
  • Carole Stewart talked about future costs for the library of £13,000. ( I don’t understand how she gets to this figure and it seems to exclude the cost of utilities, insurance, cleaning and so on.  The figure stated in the Council’s strategy document for what is called indicative costs is £98,158 for rent, rates, utilities, cleaning and overheads)
  • If no community organisation comes forward then the library will close

We need to wait for the prospectus about West Ealing Library to be clearer about the costs involved for any organisation wishing to run it. However, we do know some information about how many people use the library:

In 2017/18 there were 128,811 visits, 48,640 issues, 11,050 registered members,, 4,278 active users and 12 public computers.

The way the library is used is changing. The number of people borrowing books is dropping but the number using the computers is increasing.

One powerful message from the audience was the importance of the library to schoolchildren, people who are disabled and to many older people. It is very easy to access and has good transport links. It is also seen by many as the beating heart of our local community.

Public meeting about future of West Ealing Library Weds 27th March 4.30pm

Wednesday 27th March 4.30-6.30pm at 99 Broadway

 (in the old Bensons for Beds shop).

Ealing Council has issued a strategy document about the future of the borough’s libraries. The Council needs to save money and one of the options being looked at closely is to find community organisations to run some of its libraries. West Ealing Library is one of these libraries. It is quite possible the library will close if no organisation offers to run it.

If you want to find out more or ask questions about this then do please come to this meeting.

The strategy and accompanying documents are available on the Council’s website https://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/201042/current_consultations/2548/have_your_say_on_the_draft_ealing_library_strategy

Open Day at the West Ealing’s WLIC mosque this Sunday 12noon – 4pm

This is the invitation:

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to National Visit My Mosque Day, being held locally at the West London Islamic Centre, Ealing this Sunday 3rd March between 12-4pm.

This free, community led open day will as always be held in the spirit of understanding and dialogue. We hope to share experiences, showcase our temporary facilities and provide short tours of one of Ealing largest new faith centres, all within a friendly setting.

The afternoon will feature a variety of sumptuous delicacies, drinks and food, so please share and invite your friends and colleagues and bring them along. We look forward to welcoming you and your guests!

Council approves plans to demolish Woolworth’s and its art-deco facade in West Ealing

At tonight’s Council planning committee meeting (Wednesday 20th February) A2Dominion’s proposal to demolish the old Woolworth’s building with its art-deco facade was approved.

There were over 300 objections to A2Dominion’s proposal.  However, by the rules of the planning committee only one objector from the public  is allowed to speak at the meeting – and I assume only one speaker in favour.  Speakers are given three minutes to make their case. This is the argument I put forward:

‘Good evening councillors. I am David Highton chair of West Ealing Neighbours a residents group for the area.  I would like to make just three points – loss of art deco façade, its height and its design.

1.Loss of iconic art-deco façade

I am sorry you were not able to see the façade of this building when you visited the site on Saturday. However, I hope you will all have been able to see a photo of it as it looked before it was covered by scaffolding.

This art-deco façade on what was once a Woolworth’s store is the most recognisable architectural feature of West Ealing. It is much loved by many local residents, so much so that 1172 signed a petition to save it. I have a copy of it here. Most signatories live within the borough and many live in West Ealing.

Whilst the façade may not have been well looked after, it has not been irreparably damaged by neglect. West Ealing Neighbours commissioned an independent expert, Stand Consulting Engineers, to carry out a survey of the physical state of the façade. Their report concluded ‘ our view is that the damage to the cladding and structure (which is the façade) can be addressed by standard conservation-based repairs. We did not see any signs of structural issues to justify the demolition of the building’. I should at this point thank A2Dominion for allowing our expert to visit the site.

2 Height

Each new developer in West Ealing from the hotel opposite to the old BHS site next door and now A2Domnion have proposed to build higher than the last This time it’s 11 storeys at the front on the Broadway and 15-storeys at the back. It’s too tall, it’s out of keeping with the existing nearby buildings such as the hotel and the residential blocks along the main road.

3.Design

The design of the proposed building recognises the importance of its art deco history and tries to capture some of its features. Why?  There’s no need.  The architects can keep the original and incorporate it into a new design.

In conclusion, A2Dominion understands the importance of design and context. Just a couple of hundred yards away the building it originally proposed for the old undertaker’s site on the corner of the Uxbridge Rd and Shirley Gardens was completely out of keeping and rejected by the then planning committee. They came back with a much more sympathetic design both in style and height. I think they can do exactly the same again if the committee says this proposal just isn’t quite right yet. Have another think about it and come back with a revised design.’

Four of (I think) 12 councillors voted against the proposal, so it was approved. A2Dominion now have three years to make a start on this work.

Decision on Woolworth’s site in West Ealing due on Weds 20th February

It’s been a long wait but the Council’s planing committee is soon due to decide on A2Dominion’s controversial application to demolish the old Woolworths building to build a block 120 flats up to 15-storeys high.  The date for the committee meeting is Wednesday 20th February.  WEN was one of some 300 groups and residents who objected to A2Dominion’s plans.  Click here for more information  about this.

Enjoy some great live music in Ealing this month

Friday 8th February at Cafe Zee Ealing Broadway – Ramon Goose and his band. Tickets £10. Start 7.30pm

Friday 15th February at the Brentham Club, Meadvale Road W5 1NP

Louise Marshall and The Brethren. Tickets £20. Start 8pm

Lots more information about the bands and how to book tickets here