Hove Library move wins backing

Posted On 24 Mar 2016 at 9:20 pm

The proposal to move Hove Library into the same building as Hove Museum was agreed tonight at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council (Thursday 24 March).

A number of councillors expressed reservations about the costings, loss of space and the lack of a detailed business plan.

A more detailed business plan is likely to be put before senior councillors when the council’s Policy and Resources Committee meets on Thursday 28 April.

Hove Library. Image from Google Streetview

Hove Library. Image from Google Streetview

Labour said that the Carnegie building – the purpose-built home of the library – needed expensive urgent repairs costing at least £750,000. And the sale of the building could bring in £1 million.

The museum building, in Brooker Hall, in New Church Road, would be extended and the space would be shared and, as a result, better used.

The Greens opposed the closure, with their group leader Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty presenting a petition of more than 4,500 signatures at the start of the meeting at Brighton Town Hall.

Former Green councillor Christopher Hawtree also spoke, questioning the estimated cost of repairs.

While some Conservatives opposed the proposal, some spelt out their reservations but abstained when asked to vote on the council’s Library Plan in its entirety.

Council leader Councillor Warren Morgan and Councillor Alan Robins had warned that the cost of keeping Hove Library in its current Church Road home would be the closure of community libraries. And Councillor Robins described the Carnegie building as inflexible and outdated.

Councillor Morgan said: “Last year 106 public libraries closed, with a further 260 static libraries under threat of closure or being handed to volunteers. “There are currently 3,917 libraries in the UK, down from 4,482 in 2009-10.

“Many more libraries have been handed to the private sector or have seen their hours and staffing reduced. CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) have calculated that at least 463 service points have been lost in the past six years.

Councillor Warren Morgan

Councillor Warren Morgan

“Libraries across the country are under assault from reduced funding, from an age of e-books and the internet, from changes in the way people learn and use their time.

“However, libraries still have a key role to play in our society and in our communities, with Brighton and Hove having an above average number of library users.

“We believe they have a central part to play in making our neighbourhoods stronger, in bringing our communities together and in making our city a better place to live.

“As journalist Walter Cronkite once said: ‘Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.’

“Libraries are also one of the few public spaces where people can go and interact for free. Libraries can address ignorance and isolation, promote better health and digital inclusion, can provide a base for a wide range of services, a source for a greater range of information and a home for an expanded programme of community activities.

“The Jubilee Library stands as proof of our commitment to libraries in the city, with around a million visits putting it in the top five public libraries in the UK.

“We fought the closure of the mobile library under the Greens and we will stand up against the closure of at least seven of our local branch libraries which the failure to move Hove Library, advocated by the Greens, would guarantee.

“A Department of Culture, Media and Sport report published today urges the ‘exploration of opportunities for co-location and/or shared services with a range of partners and services.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

“‘This will help to provide more joined up services for citizens while also offering opportunities to share costs and/or make efficiencies.’

“Once again we in this city are ahead of the game. Under this administration we will no longer see services withdrawn and hours reduced as we did under the last.

“We will not stand by while the private sector steps in and takes over the profitable while the remainder decline.

“This Libraries Plan sets out a bold future for our libraries, owned and run by the council at a time when cuts are forcing many councils to close or privatise public libraries.

“Here in Brighton and Hove we are keeping the city’s libraries in public hands, open for longer and we are putting them at the heart of our communities.

“We are trying to make the most efficient use of the resources we have, to offer a financially sustainable service that costs the taxpayer less to run, a service closer to the community it serves and fit or purpose in a modern context, not the Edwardian age.”

Councillor Morgan added that he understood the concerns of local members who wished to represent their ward residents.

But, he said, the move was widely supported in consultations and was the right strategy – both bold and responsible.

Former councillor Christopher Hawtree

Former councillor Christopher Hawtree

Councillor Robert Nemeth said: “Dedicated library space in Hove will be reduced by some 59 per cent if this plan goes ahead.

“Dedicated museum space, such as that recently used for a very popular Star Wars exhibition, is to be reduced by approximately 50 per cent.

“There will be shared areas, it is true, but these were double-counted in the plan, which is in fact how the totally untrue 15 per cent reduction figure arises.

“There is much questionable data in the plan. Another example is the library consultation feedback figures.

“The consultation bears so little relation to the real world that I can only imagine what techniques were employed to get responses.

“A huge thank you to Councillor Mac Cafferty and of course former councillor Hawtree for providing a more realistic measure of public sentiment in the form of a petition with over 4,500 signatures.

Councillor Robert Nemeth

Councillor Robert Nemeth

“I would also thoroughly question the repair figures – £845,000 with the fees – to carry out repairs over the next five years is just not credible.

“Maintenance projects should be staggered, friends groups set up and a café installed. That’s how we get a better library for Hove at lower cost.

“On the subject of the building itself, there is no approved business case in place for its disposal.

“A strength of the building is of course its purpose-built construction. But the features that make it so good as a library don’t necessarily translate well to conversion.

“Dereliction following a lack of interest from buyers would add insult to injury as would the inevitable runaway construction costs of the museum extension.

“We need to see a plan.

Councillor Alan Robins

Councillor Alan Robins

“Finally there’s the general principle of closing Hove Library. When people say ‘Hove Library’, they don’t solely mean the building that was donated by Andrew Carnegie, though that is an important part of it.

“They are talking about an institution that is worthy of calling itself Hove Library. Such an institution should be a dedicated facility.

“It has to move with the time, of course, but it should be primarily about reading. And it should be centrally located so that anybody, of all backgrounds, can use it easily.

“The reason that the Save Hove Library argument resounds so well with the public is that we already have such an institution. The residents of Hove don’t want to lose it.

“You can put whatever sign you want above an extension behind the museum. You can put a few books in it. But the facility will never be worthy of being called Hove Library.”

  1. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Destroy culgural artefacts and you destroy history, heritage, national values encoded in the existence of places like the Efwardian Carnegie-endowed building and eat away national and local identity signifiers – something Mao did in his Cultural Revolution and ISIS is doing in order to remake identity and control it. Is Labour about that?

  2. David French Reply

    The real shame is that such a beautiful building has been neglected to the point that repairs have gotten so expensive.
    Modern buildings are bleak, austere boxes, which look like a child went crazy drawing around Tupperware lids.
    We have an incinerator on the seafront, huge blocks of flats at the Marina, various cool old buildings being torn down everywhere (or just filled with Sainsco supermarkets).
    Hopefully this building doesn’t go the same way!

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      A few of the more informed councillors questioned the truth of claims about how much money is needed to repair this solid, STONE-built Library building. Without a properly costed business plan (I kid you not) figures cannot be analysed and those voting to close the library took those silly figures at unquestioned face value and one councillor actually said “I choose to believe the officers”. The worth ‘believe’ is key. Act of blind faith.

      We need more intellectually rigorous and responsible people standing for elected office. All credit to new Cllr Robert Nemeth who is proving to be exactly this. His speech to Economic Development and Culture is reproduced on the saveHOVE website. If only all councillors could be bothered to do that level of scrutiny. Cllr MacCafferty’s speech last night during the Library Plan item built on that with further evidence. View this on the webcast when archived and available for repeat viewing.

      The Tories should have supported the Green amendment to their own petition which could have taken Hove Library out of the Library Plan decision voting. Petulant Geoffrey Theobald actually stood up and said he agreed a business plan was needed first but petulantly said he would still not support their amendment. The Tories were about gamesmanship and wounding Labour. Where was their amendment? None came. A few of their rebels supported Hove Library by voting against the Library Plan and that was IT.

  3. Rinty Goble Reply

    I loved this library as a child and it inspired my love of books and reading. As a building it is so beautiful and it is shameful that this as so many other things in Brighton and Hove has been left in neglect.

  4. D Simmons Reply

    Just another example of why councils should not run buildings they just run them for years with little or no maintainace then when they become so run down they have a massive bill they have to just close them hink king alfred west pier now kings house and our lovaly library another jewel in the chest going

  5. Diane Reply

    Shame on moving the library the bus stops are to far from the museum for many older and younger people also as many people who use the library will stop going due to difficulties in getting to museum. Please note the museum is a museum not the library.Please stop assuming most people have transport. LEAVE IT ALONE PLEASE. When the library was temporarily in the town hall it was a nightmare. Leave another part of our heritage alone.

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      Too late. Its DONE. And Cllr Alan Robins along with other Labour cllrs claim the existing Hove Library is ‘notoriously’ hard to get to and that Hove Museum is 4 minutes away and better served by transport links. Bare faced lies they don’t mind putting out there – look at the debates for petition and Library Plan items on the archived webcast to listen to it. They should all resign or be be hauled up before a Standards Board for telling such barefaced LIES.

  6. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    It is not over yet. The undercurrents from yesterday’s meeting were very interesting. Yet again, cllr Morgan could not answer a basic Supplementary Question. After asking why there had been no mention of the roof in previous Library Plans, as recently as 2014, I asked what contact there has now been with Historic England about this Grade ll* Listed Building. There has not been anything in the various Reports to Councillors. And he could not answer. A Leader of a Council should be able to address such a Question if he has a good overview of the issues involved in various subjects.

    Crucially, Councillors were being asked to vote on something without being given the facts. There has been no business plan for all the complex figures involved in this preposterous proposed move. It is said to be coming for a meeting on April 28th, which means that it is published on the 21st. Is that time enough to bring together such a matter?

    My favourite moment was when the ever-choleric cllr Bewick exploded because he was not mentioned on a leaflet. He did not grasp that the phrase referred to the “key councillor”.

    And most dismal was the continual muttering and chanting in the Gallery by the Ukip man. Not a part of the library campaign, he undermined the work that residents have put into this.

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      Don’t be unnecessarily mischievous Christopher. “the UKIP man” is Hove born and bred as you well know and he was there at the Full Council meeting with his Hove born and bred, very unwell, sister. Both attended specifically in support of Hove Library. Only some half dozen others bothered to be there. How does that undermine “the work hat residents have put into this”?

      And you did a fair old bit of muttering yourself!

      Why do you only single out Bewick when so many other Labour Cllrs shamed themselves with their chunterings.

      • Christopher Hawtree Reply

        The answer is in in the phrase ‘favourite moment”. I did not want to write too much. Cllr Bewick has made himself incredibly unpopular these past few months, upset a roomful of residents and staff in one sentence, and become known as cllr Shark.

        I dislike the phrase “born and bred”. It smacks of eugenics.

        As for Ukip, its vice-Chairman has proclaimed libraries “a mound of dead paper”. So much for the touring exhibition of First Folios…

        The Ukip man on Thursday is a liar. He keeps saying that I was de-selected by the Greens in Central Hove and that he has Caroline Lucas’s “personal e-mail” (she told me, “I hope not!”). As Sue Shanks’s husband told him, that is a lie. The system is that people put themselves forwards and are then voted upon by the membership. I chose not to put myself forward again as I was concentrating on the MP – and indeed came third, pretty good in the circumstances, and beat the better-funded Ukip. And, in any case, I should not have wanted to stand again locally as, if I had been re-elected, that would amount to eight years, which is a large chunk of life. To be on a Council is meant to be a part-time job but takes over more than a full-time one. It is considerably more than going along to meetings.

        And yet one has found oneself campaigning for the Library in the time that one can spare for this.

  7. M. Funnell Reply

    When they closed the main Brighton Library in the Museum and built the monstrosity of a bare warehouse with children’s bookcases in Jubilee Square, they threw thousands of our ancient tomes out into skips. We lost our unique heritage and ethnicity of our ancestors, wrapped up in those tomes.

    Hove Library and our heritage are intertwined, and the same will happen when they have to adjust to a new space much smaller – our precious heritage will be thrown out into skips and a few “modern” books and children’s books will remain in the new building.
    The museum building will also suffer loss of space and importance.

    On a visit to one of the local libraries this week, there were only fiction and children’s books and how to make things books – where are all the local history sections and the archaeology and the things that make our area so special?

    Most people, especially the elderly, socialise and meet others and this reduces loneliness and improves health prospects for many. This is where the older generations have traditionally spent their pastimes, in libraries, especially main ones. Without the grand old building and its space and quiet, their experiences will be greatly reduced and they may stop attending. as the new “portacabin” of a building will be cramped and lacking in reading materials and ambience. Not conducive to thought and study and relaxation.

    The council will NOT convert people to computer-based reading, as this hurts many of our eyes, (including myself) especially as we age, and many will never use computers, thus, their lives will be much the poorer for this very incompetent decision by the council.

    I hope the council have big pockets to pick up the bill for the health outcomes this will contribute to, re increases in isolation, particularly of the elderly, and of all of the fall out this will incur to people’s general loss of amenities.

    Hardly worth the journey in to the city to visit these places. once this change is made.

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      The Hove Carnegie Library contains a dedicated local history room upstairs (colonised, unfortunately, by language school students who put up a token laptop on the tables to look like they are there to study but sit there ALL DAY glued to mobile phones texting, not using any books or facilities apart from the tables).

      Sadly this has put residents off using it now and Sally McMahon has been able to use this as evidenc of decreasing use of the library. All very sad.

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