After years of high spending and rock bottom results Lambeth Council has crashed again on the performance of its library service. The just released figures from the Chartered Institute for Public Finance Association (CIPFA) profile, are another indictment of Lambeth Council’s library service. The comparison statistics (per 1000 population) across 16 similar boroughs reveal Lambeth is in worst place for the key indicators of:-
- Number of active borrowers
- Number of physical visits
- Total book issues
- Total book stock
In its detailed analysis, CIPFA found that Lambeth still has the highest cost per library visitor. This is partly explained by Lambeth’s remarkably high overhead and support costs. Support services in Lambeth represent 45% of expenditure compared to the London average of 24%. Again Lambeth is bottom of the league for bureaucratic expense.
What is new in this year’s results is the change in total expenditure. Despite its poor service, Lambeth has long been top of the league for expenditure, but not anymore. CIPFA estimate that in the change in expenditure between 2012/13 and 2013/14 Lambeth is in a “cuts” league of its own. Lambeth Council has reduced library expenditure by 51% against a London average of 15%.
Graham Pycock, Chairman of Norwood’s Conservative Policy Forum comments: “The facts dramatically give the lie to Lambeth’s never ending PR campaign. The worst run library service in London is hit with the biggest cash cut. Labour’s career councillors run Lambeth libraries as a pet political project. Their top-down ‘cooperative libraries campaign’ is wasting huge amounts of time and money. Lambeth has completely missed out on the new wave of community-led and enterprising libraries flourishing all over London.”
“Lambeth retains its heavy-handed centralised control. The cooperative libraries project disguises over-the-top budget cuts and promotes a let’s pretend community involvement. The community cooperates, the council controls. The budgets are set from the top and staff are appointed from the top. This is a service run by politicians, not the community, nor even the professional librarians. Having ruined the service, Labour are now imposing panic budget cuts.”
“The Conservative alternative is to delegate budgets and empower the local community to appoint local librarian managers. There is much we can adapt from best practice in community-lad libraries in other London boroughs. For us, libraries are a seat of learning, a source of inspiration, and a practical calling shop for the jobless, the hobbyist and anyone who loves books. We can take Lambeth libraries from the worst to the best.”