St James St Library Campaign

Can we trust what the Council tells us?

  The Council says: St James’ was not well used. 

  • BUT residents know this is untrue

Yes, it does have the lowest number of users compared to other libraries in WF, but as it is the smallest library in the borough, this comes as no surprise. If you look at the user figures in another way you can see it was very well used. About 230 people visited per day, many of whom were elderly, with small children, disabled or unaccompanied young teenagers. For a variety of obvious reasons (see below: What local people really think) none of these groups can visit the ‘refurbished’ Central Library. Schools will no longer be able to afford the additional journey times and hazards a visit to the Central Library would involve. The Council says: Everyone is still within a mile of a library. 

  • BUT residents know this is untrue

Hundreds of people west of Chester Road now live more than a mile from their nearest library. Besides, walking a mile with a mobility aid uphill through the market on a busy day feels very different to a mile on flat land for an able-bodied person. 

The Council says: No one’s quality of life and health is affected


  • BUT residents know this is untrue

How can the Council know this? They neither consulted with the residents nor met their legal obligation to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment to find out how this closure would affect the different sections of its local community. This is especially insidious as both Markhouse and High Street wards have been highlighted by the Council as some of the most deprived in the borough with particularly high levels of deprivation amongst the elderly. Closing this library contradicts the Council’s own aims for improving the educational achievements of its children, for increasing adult learning, for providing safe places for young people, and for improving the quality of life for the elderly. The Council says: We had to save money. There are greater needs in the borough. 

  • BUT residents know this is untrue

The refurbishments of Central and Leytonstone Library went over budget by £300k. Our library costs £70,000 only to run per year. It was one of the cheapest in the borough to run and excellent value for money. The Council says: It will cost a lot to make the library accessible to disabled people. 

  • BUT residents know this is untrue

It had the only disabled toilet this end of the market. The point of recent legislation was to make things easier for disabled people, not to close down the services they use. It required public services to provide ‘what is reasonable’. Residents feel it is more reasonable to have a library close by as opposed to a closed library. The Council says: Waltham Forest has lots of libraries – more than many other boroughs. 

  • BUT residents say: Hurrah! Something to be proud of!

Libraries bind communities, improve lives and provide opportunities. (See role of libraries in the community) The Council says: We are honest and open, our decisions are transparent. 

  • BUT residents know this is untrue

The Council did not consult residents or tell anyone the library was closing. In a section on their website called ‘Vision and Aims’ the Council claims that ‘We are honest and open, our decisions are transparent’’ and that ‘The Council is a centre of excellence for community representation and engagement’. In a public meeting demanded by this campaign group on 4 July, even their own Scrutiny Committee highlighted and condemned the lack of local consultation in advance of the library closure. The Council says: This decision was made years ago. We merely confirmed it in December 2006 and February 2007. 

  • BUT residents know this is untrue

Worried residents contacted their Member of Parliament for Walthamstow, Neil Gerrard, over 18 months ago. The Council told him there were no plans to close St James’ Street Library.  In fact, we’ve seen an email from the Council, which promised they would review any closure only after the Central Library was re-opened and the number of users counted. Neil Gerrard, feels strongly that ‘the decision this year to close does not seem to be related to a review of recent usage.’


1 Comment so far
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Excellent site. Very well put! It’s encouraging to know that people are taking action about this. If enough of us get involved we could get the library reopened – it hardly costs anything compared with what they chuck away on “consultations” that they then ignore!

Comment by Rosie, Walthamstow

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