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£! million to be spent on work spaces in Hornsey Library???????????

When the announcement was made in the autumn that Hornsey Town Hall was to be sold to a hotelier, there was much talk of the loss to the Town Hall of the 74 businesses that are based there. A loss not only to the Hall, but to the shops and restaurants of Crouch End of the business generated by the employees (over 100 of them). A loss to Haringey of the income generated by these businesses (of which more elsewhere). And of course the loss to the businesses themselves caused by disruption and displacement.

In response our local councillors (all three now Labour) promised that £1 million would be spent in Hornsey Library making space available for some of these businesses. You should, of course, verify my assertion that this promise was made. My Hornsey Library Freedom of Information question achieves that verification. Haringey accept without demur that the £1 million is to be set aside.

What I have found more difficult to verify is that the money has actually been set aside or that there is any intention to provide work spaces. Pasted in below is a reply I received from Cllr Bernice Vanier who has Cabinet responsibility including libraries.

I have looked up the link to the cabinet papers, and the line in the budget to which the councillor refers is item 21, for a total of £2.5m over 2 years. The text that goes with it reads:

Name of Capital Investment Proposal  Libraries IT and buildings upgrade 
Description   Refresh for all IT across 7 libraries, plus building improvement works at Hornsey and Wood Green Libraries. Significant improvements are underway at Marcus Garvey and Wood Green Libraries, bringing Customer Service Centres into refurbished library facilities. However, the rest of the Libraries network needs IT investment to provide modern facilities which meet the needs of our customers and enables the service to meet pre-agreed operational savings targets. Investment in libraries IT is also essential to enable the council to achieve its channel shift aspirations, with My Account being delivered through the Customer Services Transformation Programme. Further investment will be required at Wood Green and Hornsey Libraries to deal with high priority condition works
Now as hard as I try I can find no reference to work spaces. £2.5m equally divided between 7 projects is about £360,000 each, but priority is going to IT, channel shift transformation and condition works. Take £1m out for work spaces and just about £200,000 each is left. Is that sufficient for all that remains to be done? And I wonder at the prescience of the council officers who put this budget together in the spring of 2016 to predict the outcome of a top secret OJEU procurement process not announced until late Autumn, to include £1m for work spaces when in fact the preferred bidder eventually chosen may have been planning a sufficiency of work space in the Town Hall.
We also have Cllr Vanier's closing sentences "However, to manage expectations, we should note that the space available at the library will not be a direct replacement for the space that has been available for the 74 businesses in the Town Hall. Our project for Hornsey Library will be focused on improving the layout and quality of the space available at the library, focusing on areas of greatest impact for our customers" I have a view on just how that translates into work spaces.

Perhaps I should go back to Councillor Vanier and Officer McGrath just to check I have understood.

Dear Mr Essex,

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your original email. Please find responses to the questions you have raised as a follow up to your original response from  Jon McGrath:

1)     Where should I look to find these budgetary details:

The Council’s budget for 2016/17 was discussed at Cabinet on 14 June 2016 and published on our website here (see page 35 of the report pack).  

2) I feel sure that this project is being progressed by an officer - please can you tell me the name of the officer responsible?

Judith Walker – Head of Customer Services & Libraries will be leading on our Libraries Capital programme.

      3) Please can you tell me where the minutes of the meetings on this project are published.

We would not normally publish minutes of internal meetings and or project team meetings. Several of these will carry commercially sensitive information which would give early warnings to potential bidders of financial expectations. We could arrange for the web site to be updated on progress. However, we do update our web on progress on key projects and we will be engaging library users and local stakeholders in our plans for the library.

4) I would, of course, be grateful for any other information you can give me, such as where in the library the workspaces would go, how many there might be,
when the building work might start and finish, how the planning application is developing, or any obstacles that might have arisen.

This information is not yet available. The project for Hornsey Library is still being planned, looking at the range of possible works within the budget available. We have recognised the local need and demand for workspaces and are looking at different options for incorporating this into the library space. However, to manage expectations, we should note that the space available at the library will not be a direct replacement for the space that has been available for the 74 businesses in the Town Hall. Our project for Hornsey Library will be focused on improving the layout and quality of the space available at the library, focusing on areas of greatest impact for our customers

I hope that this has answered your enquiry. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Kind regards

Bernice

Cllr Bernice Vanier
Deputy Leader
Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Culture
Tottenham Green Ward

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This very splendid copyright photo provided by Daniel Sperti-Sainz a level 3 Google local guide

Tags: dorsett, far east consortium, hornsey town hall, library, ojeu, tax haven, workspaces

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Also bear in mind that the New Gallery section of the Library already has paying tenants - the North London YMCA offices occupy much of the space, and an IT company by the name of Aquilatec seem to have set up shop too.

Haringey are going to have a job squeezing in many new workspaces.

Maybe, heaven forbid, there isn't any designated budget at all... and given the councillor's attempt at 'managing expectations', they know it.

Do you think, and I can hardly bring myself to say it, it was all just a bit of spin and hope-for-the-best when the council realised that kicking 74 small businesses out the Town Hall and onto the street (or into their back bedrooms) was just a bit of a PR own goal. No. It can't be that, I refuse to believe such thoughts.

But if that were were true (that there is no designated budget) that would mean the public has been misled. By the councillors who announced its availability, by the officer who confirmed its existence in response to the FoI request, and by Cllr Vanier who has done a little, though perhaps not quite enough in a truly open administration, to correct our misapprehension. Well, no actually if it is a misapprehension she actually confirmed it by finding the line in the accounts. A cynic (or feeble minded conspiracy theorist) might begin to suspect a well rehearsed and widespread conspiracy.

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