13.3.16…..The Library Plan, which follows on from, and includes, the results of the public consultation on cuts to the citywide Library service, was presented to the Economic Development & Culture Committee on Thursday, 10th March, for agreement. More respondents than not had agreed to closing the Hove Carnegie building and moving its service to Hove Museum, buying into the claim that loads of other ones would close if it was kept.
The Library Plan is about the whole service, and closing Hove Library was just buried within it, putting the committee councillors in a bad position. The Labour Administration has the majority vote on this committee so there was no question of it not being accepted. But one councillor bided his time during the considerations and showed up the whole lot of them with his ‘last word’ speech. Here is Conservative Cllr Robert Nemeth’s exceptional speech, verbatim:
First, I am disappointed that the important question of Hove Library’s future is being dealt with as part of a wider package of measures when it could have been taken out and dealt with in isolation.
Considering the future of Hove Library in this manner divides and rules, and distracts from a lot of good work that has been done in other areas such as Hollingbury and perhaps Westdene.
We read in the report (pg 18) that Hove Library has a dedicated area of 616m2. The new facility will have 520m2. This is a reduction of just 15% apparently.
But this is counting the so-called flexible museum/library areas. Dedicated library space in the new facility is only around 250m2 – a reduction of some 59% – nowhere near the 15% figure.
If the flexible space is to be counted as library space, as has been done, then it needs to be acknowledged that the museum is to shrink by an equivalent amount. To not do so would be double-counting – in effect, a manipulation of the figures.
250m2 is to be lost from the museum – essentially, the whole ground floor of a two-storey museum – or half the museum. This is quite an important detail to skip over.
So, whether it be a shrinking library, or a vanishing museum, there is no doubt that Hove is losing out again. And there is of course the removal of much of the garden behind the museum – one of Westbourne Ward’s only green spaces.
The building condition report suggests that repairs will cost £845,000 over the coming five years. I would question this figure but would also point out that if it is true, any potential purchaser will expect the asking price to take it into account. We won’t be able to escape such a cost whether we keep it or sell it.
In conclusion, having assured thousands of residents on the doorstep in the run-up to the election that I would resist further damage to Hove as a distinct community, I couldn’t possibly support a policy that sees such a reduction in service for the town.
I will be voting against this proposal.
How many of the small number who bothered with the Consultation even knew that the Museum service is to be offloaded to a created Trust? Hove Library being moved to the Museum (in a converted house) puts the shared museum and library part of the deal on a totally unresolved footing. The annex will not belong to the Library, it will belong to the building….the Museum. There was talk from Sally McMahon of using the grounds in front of the Museum as some sort of children’s play area too. So the whole thing would perhaps end up as a sort of mishmash community centre, off the beaten track, in a purely residential area that is not heavily served by buses and where there would not be any parking to speak of. And gossip wonders if Wetherspoons will end up owning our proper library.
The only thing standing between that meeting and the final death knell sounding is Full Council on 24th March. The Labour Administration is a minority one which means that the Conservatives and Greens COULD still vote down the Libraries Plan. Because it contains the agreement to close the Hove Carnegie building and to sell it off, their decision is very grave.
Selling the Edwardian, Carnegie-endowed Hove Library building is a major blow to the city’s heritage and to its image and credibility. Think for a moment about what gives any given town or city its esteemed gravitas and status. What are Oxford or Cambridge without their ancient universities? Windsor without the castle? London without the gravitas of its mass of museums, libraries, palaces, cultural institutions – its still visible centuries of history? Places with none of that are clone towns, mostly. Anywheres. What does Brighton & Hove have? Once they sell Kings House and Hove Library, all that’s left with any claim to civic gravitas, heritage importance at the institutional level, that belongs to the city, are Brighton Town Hall and the Royal Pavilion complex, which includes The Dome and Brighton Museum.
Hove Library is a superb example of a building that reflects the Edwardian style and grandeur of a nation in its pomp. Civic architecture was full of gravitas back then, messaging the value and importance of its function. The Listed building and its interior are purpose built and it was Carnegie-endowed. It is something which provokes civic pride. But for Labour’s utilitarian Cllr Daniel Yates where the books are doesn’t matter. It is the books that matter and they can be anywhere. His philistine words were spoken with irritated conviction. And it hurt to listen to them. Cllr Garry Peltzer Dunn pointed out that the Hove Museum building went up in 1877 and yet nobody tallks about repair and maintenance burdens for that building (yet). And they should, given the air quality controls needed for artworks.
Selling Hove Library is as stupid and shortsighted as selling the Royal Pavilion would be. And I bet that’s not unthinkable now, either. To the soulless utilitarians… Are the Tories and Greens going to just sit there on the 24th and rubberstamp Labour’s Economic Development & Culture vote to close and sell Hove’s Carnegie Library building?