Lewisham invites bidders for Crofton Park library

A statement from the Council suggests that finding independent providers for Lewisham's threatened libraries will be the best hope for retaining library services:

Lewisham Council is seeking organisations and community groups that may be interested in taking over one or more of the five library buildings being considered for closure.

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock deferred a decision on the proposed closure of five of the borough’s 12 libraries last month to allow time for community solutions to be explored. The libraries affected are Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and Sydenham.

“We would like to explore ways in which community library services could continue to be provided from these or other buildings,” said Councillor Chris Best, Cabinet Member for Community Services.

“The Council would continue to provide books as well as providing visiting library services, such as storytelling, homework sessions and reading groups. If we were to agree to these closures we would prefer to retain most of the buildings in community use. We are looking for vibrant organisations to take over the management of the buildings and ensure that they continue to stand at the heart of the community.”

The Council is prepared to transfer buildings to organisations on a lease or, exceptionally, freehold where possible. Anyone interested would need to prepare a business case setting out how the ongoing running costs would be funded. Continued community use will be a requirement, but the buildings could also be used for other purposes that could generate revenue.

Information packs will be available from 10 December 2010. To register to receive a pack please email librarybuildings@lewisham.gov.uk. The deadline for expressions of interest is Thursday 20 January 2011.

75 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Library during the day,club or restaurant at night idea.

Anonymous said...

Or betting shop / library.

Anonymous said...

even,cafe/library.

max said...

I'm glad they're trying hard, closing them would see them go down the route of the Playtower.

A rather natural, useful and appropriate ancillary use that is also capable of generating income could be professional training (and re-training). In a way libraries informally already do some of that, if that activity was structured as a formal offer then maybe it could bring in enough money, both as fees and as funds available for professional training.

Anonymous said...

I believe Twin in Lewisham ( the old Yates ) does all manner of training courses.

Anonymous said...

yes betting/library is a good idea, one can read books about betting odds while waiting for the betting events.

No need to leave the premises anymore ;)

aunty kate said...

I don't like the idea of the council transferring the freehold i.e. losing the building from public ownership. A lot of these old libraries were donated or endowed by benefactors for benefit of the local people. They belong to us, surely.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a student or lecturer at Goldsmiths can come up with a viable option.

Maybe we could get Alan Sugar to judge the best option?

Tamsin said...

It does say freehold transfer would be "exceptional" - otherwise it would seem like a charter for an opportunist land-grab.

Just a couple of months with Christmas in the middle is not very long for any organisation to get a viable bid together - although I suppose things have to be tied up by March so it can't be pushed too much later.

max said...

Yes, if Twin can do it and pay for the upkeep of a rather substantial building then someone else can do it too.
With so many people needing constant re-skilling there may well be space in that market.
Speaking personally I spend quite some money to keep on top of things and I can't see any moment in the future when I'll be able to stop doing it, I assume I'm only one of many.

Anonymous said...

I think the Mayor is clearly taking everyone for a political ride.

One month to receive an offer from charities on what?

He is preparing his way to say sorry I tried my best, no alternative has come forward so the libriries have to close.

Could we use his salary to keep them open?

Sarah said...

I agree Aunty Kate transferring the freehold would be awful. Although it's stated as an exceptional circumstance it's not ruled out, which it should be. It's a classic council move to sell off properties for way below market value. Greenwich and Tower Hamlets have done it before. Sometimes they even end up leasing them back years later at great cost.

Anonymous said...

Twin get a lot of work from unemployed people, who are sent there on courses,bet they charge a fortune of tax payers money.

Anonymous said...

That didn't let me send whole link...just see latest Newshopper or google Joan Ruddock.

Anonymous said...

I'll try again:

http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/8723587.LEWISHAM___DEPTFORD__
Joan_Ruddock_MP_accused_of__champagne
_lifestyle__during_debate/

Anonymous said...

totally agree with aunty kate above...

Anonymous said...

The council has 60million in reserve. There is no need for cuts. See the New Shopper.

Anonymous said...

what does the Mayor plan to do with the 60 million pounds Lewisham Council has in reserve.

We demand answers!

Brockley Nick said...

You want Lewisham to spend its reserves rather than cut spending to match its means? For how long would you like to do that? Should we have any minimum level of reserves?

Anonymous said...

Yes I do want them to spend SOME of the reserve rather than cut front line services.

Anonymous said...

The reserves are surely for times such as these. What on Earth are they going to use it for otherwise!!!

Brockley Nick said...

OK, how much? And when the fiscal situation improves, should they put more money back in to the reserve fund or put it all in to services?

Serious questions.

I do think there may be an argument to dip in to reserves a little, but then I don't know what it's intended for and what other risks they may need to plan for.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 1336 - precisely. I don't know what they are for otherwise. Do you?

Anonymous said...

Brockley Nick 13:38...no but we the people of Lewisham need to ask WHAT is it for? And WHY can't some of this be used instead of cuts to frontline services.

Brockley Nick said...

Fair questions - worth putting to our councillors.

But the tone of the comments posted here implies that there is something untoward going on.

Anonymous said...

some would say that cuts to frontline services are 'untoward'.

Anonymous said...

The recent cuts approved by council were 16 million.

Surely SOME of the 60 million in reserve could easily take care of this.

wendy said...

Why doesn't one of you ask the question to the Mayor then?

max said...

I think the trend of the reserves is important here, if they've been increasing fast then yes, it's legitimate to ask to balance them against cuts.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, maybe. I guess my point is that I'm inclined to take a quote from Eric Pickles, who is massively under fire for hacking away at Council budgets, with a pinch of salt until I know more of the facts.

max said...

Absolutely, it's pretty much like saying that Top Shop should pay more taxes instead of raising students' fees.

Danja said...

Knock yourselves out - you need the notes at p54 onwards in this: this.

I'm no accountant but it looks like one of the lines in the reserves - a £106m surplus - is for unrealised capital gains on assets which have been revalued. So the £60m only really exists if they sell everything.

Loads of the other surplus lines are there to cover committed future expenditure so they don't count either.

Pickles is a stupid culture secretary anyway.

Danja said...

My rubbish attempt at html did not work.

http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D0A38EB2-E62B-4D21-A816-FB1D8FB0FC5F/0/913c415dd65c47a9a64e93a1e79188d2Item4a0910StatementofAccountsAuditPanel17June10.PDF

Danja said...

I'll try again with that one:
http://tinyurl.com/lbc2010accts

Anonymous said...

Pickles is not Culture Secretary. He is in charge of the Dept for Communities and Local Government. They oversee local government in everything they do.
An advisor or civil servant would have given him the figures.

Anonymous said...

If what Pickles is saying is only half true then we don't need the cuts...

max said...

If it is only half true then it is also half untrue, in which case what we wouldn't need is Pickles himself.

Danja said...

It's less than half true. £60m 'reserves' minus £106m unrealised capital gains on assets held on books = -£46m available cash, before starting on the other lines.

As for the first anon, are you a bit out of the loop this week?

Anonymous said...

Danja - your calculating 46m...that would still mean we don't need the cuts.

Anonymous said...

I mean you're calculating 46m.

Anonymous said...

I think his comments needs greater scrutiny. Not from this Blog but from those in the council or government with the facts.

Danja said...

This is a minus sign, anon -

-£46m

Anonymous said...

By the way you can work that out for yourself by taking away 106 from 60.

Danja said...

Unintentionally anonymous there, that was me being helpful with a maths lesson.

Monkeyboy said...

There's a bloke on the train with small stupid dog. Two pretty girls started a conversation with him 'cos of said dog. Note to self, look into renting small dog.

Danja said...

Small dog beats medium monkey?

Monkeyboy said...

It spectacularly ugly as well...... Seemed to add to it's appeal. I'm ugly and yet not ugly enough, 'tis a cruel world.

Danja said...

Oh dear. Poor sad monkey. Still, cheer up, at least you aren't an intellectually challenged anonymouse.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 2127 Danja's analysis is all I need - there is no finer mind in SE London and no-one I'd want beside me more as I rode in to battle.

It certainly makes a lot more sense than the Council just sitting on a magic pot of cash for no reason other than they are masochists.

Monkeyboy said...

Im just depressed because I lack an opposable thumb.

Anonymous said...

Brockley Nick you say
"It certainly makes a lot more sense than the Council just sitting on a magic pot of cash for no reason other than they are masochists."

But Eric Pickles is head of the Dept for Communities and Local Government.
Either he is a)lying (b)making a massive gaffe or (c) correct

He has at his disposal hundreds of civil servants and one or 2 political advisors. I find it highly dubious that this is untrue.

Anonymous said...

We have definitely NOT heard the last of this.

Brockley Nick said...

Option d) being deliberately disingenuous to score points in a Parliamentary debate when he is under pressure.

Highly plausible.

Or, to put it another way, why haven't the Tory cllrs who oppose the budget plans raised this as an issue? a) they are stupid b) they are lazy c) it's a red herring

Danja has provided the link - you can verify the facts yourself.

Brockley Nick said...

@Danja - just got your "culture secretary" joke. Very good.

Anonymous said...

Yes hardiha Jeremy Hunt joke...


So none of the reserves can be used to offset the cuts...

Still highly dubious.

Danja said...

I take you are the same anonymouse who patronisingly corrected me as to his proper Title?

Oh and please go and read the notes to the accounts relating to the reserves - I even gave you the page no. It's about three pages of reading and not that complicated to understand.

Anonymous said...

Danja you're not one of the Labour councillors that made the cuts are you?

Danja said...

No. Just someone who can read, and who doesn't take media reports at face value, especially media reports of politician's soundbites/cheap shots.

Anonymous said...

Back to the library:

"Council suggests that finding independent providers for Lewisham's threatened libraries will be the best hope for retaining library services"

How can it be done cheaper privately?

Aren't they talking for free i.e. volunteers?

Danja said...

By your own logic, standing up for Pickles and opposing the cuts must meam you are one of the conservative councillors?

Anonymous said...

"By your own logic, standing up for Pickles and opposing the cuts must meam you are one of the conservative councillors?"

No. I'm not standing up for him. I just want to know for certain if it is true.

So you have studied the accounts thoroughly then? And you know for certain that none of these 'reserves' can be used?

Anonymous said...

Report on local gov website
http://www.localgov.co.uk/index.cfm?method=news.detail&id=93820

Danja said...

So you have studied the accounts thoroughly then? And you know for certain that none of these 'reserves' can be used?

You still haven't bothered to read the notes to the accounts have you?

That £106m is for unrealised capital gains on Lewisham's assets. That money could be realised if the assets which have been revalued and on which gains have been recorded are sold.

If we take away that line entirely (because for now it isn't usable cash), Lewisham's reserves become minus £46m just like that.

In order to use the capital gain reserves, you need to then start selling the assets on which the capital gains have been registered.

I do not know what those assets are, but a local authority obviously owns all sorts of things which it needs to own in order to fulfill its functions.

Hypothetically, Lewisham might own lots of gold bars which can readily be realised. If that is the case and Lewisham has made more than £46m in capital gains on its hypothetical pot of gold then the capital gains over £46m on that hypothetical pot of gold could easily be converted into cash into to defray some of the cuts.

I suspect even you will acknowledge that the pot of gold scenario is a little unlikely.

It may be that there are things like chunks of development land (like the Kender triangle site) which represent part of the capital gains in there which are semi-liquid. On the other hand it probably includes things like waste transfer stations, council offices, etc, etc.

But, you need to sell assets *worth* way more than £46m (being the magic figure at which some of the overall reserves *might* become real in cash terms) in order to realise *capital gains* of £46m.

So we would talking about asset stripping on a massive scale, in order to even begin releasing some cash from the reserves.

Tamsin said...

There is, though, some remarkably crass expenditure - on a small scale admittedly but symptomatic of an on-going attitude problem with the Council - or any council. Laurence House has been massively refurbished and various departments moved around. Part of the refurbishment is carpeting the concrete back stairs that are really only ever used as a fire exit. Not only a significant capital expense (hardwearing carpet is not cheap) but also additional cleaning costs from now on. Crazy.

Danja said...

Oh no doubt, I'm not standing up for them generally, just doubting the idea that there is a big pot of idle money which the council is ignoring and instead choosing to slash services.

Anonymous said...

In the report the Mayor wrote for the previous government was there not frequent reference to consolidating council offices and reducing the estate?

Looking at the report into Catford town centre (now owned by the council)...could a possiblity be a new town hall as part of the regen plans..releasing other council properties?

Danja said...

I agree they should be looking at stuff like that, but it won't release much cash this year or next.

Danja said...

Arguing against myself here as I seem to be the only person bored enough to look at the accounts.

The £60m cited by Pickles doesn't refer to the overall reserve position as I assumed, as those sum to a much bigger number because it includes a line for the capital value of everything the council owns.

The nearest thing I can find to Pickle's £60m is in the following sub-category within the reserves:

General Earmarked 48,910k
Insurance 13,196k
Capital Expenditure 5,932k
School Balances 3,568k
School's External Funds 624k
Total 72,230k

... Capital Expenditure Reserve
This is a reserve created to enable directorates to make revenue contributions towards their committed
capital spending in future years.
Schools Balances
This reserve was set up as a result of the Education Reform Act 1988 and represents schools’ selfmanaged
budgets that remain unspent at the year-end. It is earmarked for use by the schools only.
Schools’ External Funds
This is the unspent balances from schools’ locally generated funds and is earmarked for schools only.


Assuming the committed cap ex and ring-fenced schools lines are ignored, that gives circa £60m total for the 'general earmarked' and 'insurance' reserves.

The insurance reserve as I understand it is to cover uninsured losses. So, if, say, the insurance claims for Monson or the Crofton Park school burning down is declined, LBC (and parents and children) would be stuffed if it didn't have some money set aside to cover rebuilding costs. Taking that money to pay for current expenditure would seem to me to be a pretty shortsighted gamble.

That leaves the 'general earmarked' reserves of £48m.

There isn't any explanation of what that represents other than the following lines at p20:

"The Council has set aside amounts from its revenue account to form provisions and reserves, which will
be used to cover future expenditure....

Reserves are amounts set aside for purposes falling outside the definition of provisions. These
include earmarked reserves set aside for specific policy purposes and general reserves, which represent resources set-aside for purposes such as general contingencies and cash flow management."


There isn't any further breakdown of what is 'earmarked' and what is 'general' within the £48m.

Obviously with annual expenditure of more or less a billion, some money for 'cash flow management' and 'contingency' purposes is going to be required.

It will be interesting to see if the budget dips into these reserves. Digging in the cuts proposal docs to follow...

Anonymous said...

If the council is spending £20m a year more than it has, using reserves or assets to bridge the gap will only be a one off short term solution?

Why are council financial documents so difficult to understand, some years ago I asked what was the council's debt but was told it was very complicated.

I see Forest Hill School has been allowed to run with a defecit(?) budget for the next few years.

Anonymous said...

I see the council site at Willow Way, SE26 is up for sale.

Anonymous said...

I note in Wandsworth Band D Council Tax is £682, in Lewisham it is £1352.

In 2001 Wandswoth's population was 260,380 while in Lewisham it was 248,922.

Monkeyboy said...

Erm.... Complicated? Well yes, a bit (unless your Danja, who seems to like, you know - get it). But not to accountants. If you look at the accounts of any organisation with a spend as big and complex as a local authority you'll see similar juggling, depreciation, discounting, offsetting, fairy dust, weird loans, restructuring and other mechanisms to manage cash flow and risk. I'd be worried if it was simply cash in and cash out, that's no way to manage it. Ask Phillip green, he knows all about efficiency.

Mb said...

.... And politicians of all complexions exploit that complexity to cherry pick numbers to make points that have no basis. It's not like running a newsagents.

Mb...tiredcand emotionsl said...

I'm five pints down, so forgive me. I did a course where the chap tried to explain "amortisation of good will" in accounts.

It's this apparently...


"amortisation is the process of writing off intangible assets such as goodwill,patents, trademarks, license etc. The portion of goodwill(or any other intangible asset) to be amortized in a particular accounting year is treated as revenue expense and is charged to the Profit and Loss Account of that year."

So yes, complex. So best left to those who know

Anonymous said...

But why does it have to presented in such a complicated manner that it's nigh impossible to track the council's funding/spending?

Meanwhile in Cuba....

"The Cuban labour federation said more than a million workers would lose their jobs - half of them by March next year.

Those laid off will be encouraged to become self-employed or join new private enterprises, on which some of the current restrictions will be eased."

As many as one-in-five of all workers could lose their jobs.


Interestingly they seem to have adopted George Osborne's policy of private enterprise providing the jobs...

"Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, co-operatives, and self-employment, absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years," the statement added."

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