Bramley: New council hub set for library?

18 July 2016

A public consultation will be held this week to discuss plans to turn Bramley Library into a community hub housing a variety of council services under one roof.

The event will be held this Thursday (July 21) from 5-7pm in the library on Hough Lane.

bramley library hub consultation

Cash-strapped Leeds City Council plans to open the hub in the library to create a hub similar to ones at Armley and Pudsey. It will host a variety of council services which could include customer services, housing enquiries, help with finding a job, support with debt and a registrar for births and deaths.

It’s understood the creation of the hub will lead to the closure and disposal of the existing housing office in Bramley.

Kevin Ritchie Braamley and Stanningley

Cllr Kevin Ritchie

Bramley and Stanningley councillor Kevin Ritchie (Lab) said the move would secure the future of the historic art deco-style library building at a time when council budgets are being stretched.

He told The Dispatch:

“The hub concept has been a big success in places like Armley. As a Bramley  lad using the library as I grew up and I’m pleased that these plans help secure the future of the library for the next generation.

“Local councillors and Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves have worked hard  to get where we are with this, lobbying council officers to convince them that the library is the right place for this new hub.”

Cllr Ritchie encouraged local residents to come to Thursday’s event and have their say. He added:

“We’d welcome any contributions and suggestions local residents may have – people may spot things that we have missed and we’d welcome that feedback.”

As reported last month, members of the council’s decision-making executive board will authorised expenditure of £4.6 million to create 12 community hubs across the city – including Bramley. There are also plans to improve layout, queue and appointment management, design and ‘confidentiality’ issues at Armley One Stop Centre as part of the expenditure.

An initial idea to have a hub with community facilities at Bramley District Centre were dismissed due to costs and the unsuitability of the building.

The future of nearby Bramley Community Centre, while secure in the immediate future, is also uncertain. At one stage the centre had been discussed as a possible site for the new hub. The Dispatch understands that local charity Bramley Elderly Action are interested in taking over the building.

Vital public services for Pudsey residents are also available under one roof after the opening of a community hub in the town’s library in May.



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Paul mason says:

Are they going to make the spare land at the back into a car park ? As no parking as it is !

David says:

If the ‘Plans’ have already been drawn up to be presented to us doesn’t this once again smack of ‘Let’s have a meeting to rubber stamp ‘our’ decision’? Are the public really involved in this decision? Were we given the alternative options to discuss? If this meeting is to discuss the different options then why has money already been spent drawing up plans to turn the library into a ‘Hub’? That’s not demonstrating competent business acumen is it?

Pudsey library is in a similar situation at the moment. The Pudsey ‘Hub’ is being redecorated and the ‘Hub’ is being temporarily housed in the library. On a couple of occasions that I’ve been in there I’ve witnessed people crying and in distress. As we all know ‘Housing and Social’ issues can be very emotional for the people involved. Bramley Library has an ambiance which is conducive to studying, contemplating and stretching one’s intellect in peace. That ambiance will be lost forever if it’s converted into a ‘Hub’.

A couple of week ago there was a memorial service on the park to commemorate the soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom. It was that generation who built the library. Subsequent generations then preserved it for us for which we should be grateful. Town’s are like tapestries and it’s the places like the library, the baths, the park, the woods, the churches etc which give Bramley a richness and texture of which we should all be proud. In my life Bramley has lost much of what made it a ‘beautiful little gem’ and this desecration of our heritage has to stop. We should all be fighting hard to preserve what we have left and if not for us then for all the generations of Bramley people who will come after us.

David says:

Tonight at the meeting a Councillor and a Housing officer said that ‘people don’t become emotional in Council Housing Offices’.

‘Inside Housing’s exclusive survey has revealed 2,367 instances of assault on housing workers in 2015. In the first few months of 2016 alone, workers reported 691 assaults. A total of 2,136 (90%) of the assaults in 2015 were verbal, while 231 (10%) were recorded as physical assaults. This breakdown is largely the same for the first quarter of 2016.’
http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/how-safe-are-you-at-work/7015499.article

How can they stand there with smiles on their faces and come out with such utter nonsense?

westleedslife says:

Thanks David, interesting stats and food for thought.

We weren’t able to make the meeting, sounded interesting from what we saw on social media.

David says:

Thanks.

I recorded the meeting and everything which was said is perfectly clear. I’m going to the local councillor’s surgery tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it goes and provide you with a transcript of the meeting if necessary.

Cheers.

Suzzana says:

David I felt my concerns were brushed aside, primarily they were as both a user of the housing service, as a council tenant, and a user of the library. That my librarians would know of any housing issues I had. Although council officers were keen to point out there was ONE private room, away from library services, I then enquired about the staff room seating arrangement, where both library staff and housing staff will work. Presumably telephone calls made in this area about individual tenants needs, often of a sensitive nature will be overheard by library staff. This is detrimental to both tenant and library staff, many of whom are local, and at present act as ‘friends’, with whom socially it’s better not divulge too confidential information. Eg. My access and mobility needs when using own bathroom. Totally out of place in a library of that size where the two services are in cramped conditions. I also think that the council officer who claimed people generally don’t get emotional too often in housing offices, clearly is not front line staff or a user. I’ve witnessed emotional displays on most occasions I go there. Confidentiality is an issue even in the housing office alone, how much more so if they are integrated.

David says:

This is ‘my account’ of the proceedings at the consultation.

At the meeting the room was half full of Leeds City Council employees and oddly enough some people from Kirklees Council. The vast majority of the other half of the attendees were the local OAP Labour Members who were mostly silent throughout the meeting until they burst out in applause at the end. This gave the appearance that the meeting was ‘well attended’.

If you asked a ‘favourable’ question or praised the plans (‘I think it’s wonderful’ ‘I think it’s beautiful’ Seriously?) you were greeted with big smiles, (un) funny stories, jokes, a cheery acknowledgment of your presumed wisdom and a big thank you for coming along. If you objected you were greeted with frowns, disinterest, patronised and ultimately your opinion was dismissed as nonconsequential to the proceedings with no invite offered or given to expand on your objection.

Just after the start of the meeting a guy (directly in front of me) asked ‘Why are we even having a meeting the plans look great?’ (huh?) to which the Officer said ‘well let’s finish it here then … errr is there anyone who’s STRONGLY (notice the wording? Used to create barriers.) against the proposal?’. Two of us raised our hands as we did oppose the plans (not strongly personally as I have an open mind when it come to the difficulties of local issues) and both our objections were treated equally with distain and disrespect. I don’t care either way whether others agree with me or not that’s not my concern here but I do expect as a long term Bramley resident and long term user of the library to have a fair hearing and discussion of my stated objection from the people who have been elected to represent me. I stated facts (‘Some people become emotional in Social Housing Offices which makes the two incompatable’, numerous evidence abounds of this so how could those present not be aware of it?) in my objection and was told twice that these facts don’t exist and that no one becomes emotional in Council Housing Offices. Is that even legal? Is that conducting yourself with integrity as our public servants are bound by a Code of Conduct to do so? I’m unclear about this and will be seeking further clarity.

There’s also the issue of there being 14 seats allocated for the library area, one lady asked if her group of 15 would still be able to come along. She was told yes of course. But no mention was made of where the other 30 people, on average during the busy periods (according to an employee who I had asked earlier), were going to sit and no mention of where the people enquiring about housing were going to sit either. Let’s say at some point there could be 50 to 60 service users in the building it’s patroning and misleading to say that there is enough seats and tables for everyone to be comfortable when anyone could fathom that there clearly is not.

It was also brought up during the meeting that there wasn’t any parking on Hough Lane. A local resident from across the road had joined the meeting and he appeared slightly irrate and announced that blue car from the meeting had blocked his drive and could someone go and move it. No one spoke up and the MP said ‘It’s not anyone’s from here’. When he then said ‘Yes it is it’s got a Kirklees Council sticker on it’ some one jumped up at the back and quickly went to move it, no apology was given. This parking issue was again brushed over and we were told by the MP that most people walk anyway and also that they could possibly be ‘cutting a deal with the Liberal Club across the road to use their carpark’ (what’s taking them so long to cut this deal is anyone’s guess). Well, what if the Liberal Club say no? Do they have any contingency plans? They certainly didn’t reveal them if they had.

This wasn’t a consultation where equally situated people convene to discuss and debate their opinions about the future of their library as there was minimal to no discussion of other options or opinions which didn’t tally with the Councils and in fact one of the officers actually said that it was a LCC directive to ‘get the most out of libraries’ (creating Hubs). So why the charade? Why waste people’s time with this pretense that we had other options on the table so to speak? It was a done deal and the meeting seemed like an unpleasant formality to me. The only thing up for discussion to my mind was the arrangement of the seating which unfortunately for everyone concerned will be like an episode of The Kyrpton Factor.

Is this how local democracy now works in West Leeds? You either agree with them or you are ignored once they’ve patronised the hell out of you? Are we supposed to accept this as normal? Not likely. In Bramley we will now have a Housing Office with a Library attached to it’s back wall with severely inadequate seating for the users oh and let’s not forget no parking to boot. And this is presented to us as a ‘good thing’.

I’m a Bramley resident and I’m deeply dissappointed and unhappy by the way I was spoken to and also by the way I was treated at the meeting by my MP, Council Officers and the Local Councillors. I thought the way some of them conducted themselves was unsympathetic to opposing views and also throughly unprofessional in the way they carried out the meeting. This particulary shoddy and seemingly uncaring approach in the way I was spoken down to is clearly not good enough and assuredly unappreciated by myself and I expect a much better service in future and in particular I expect far better conduct from the Public Servants who represent me and the area in which I live in.

David says:

I went along to the Councillor’s Surgery at the library yesterday morning to speak with Councillor Gruen. She listened to my grievances about the consultation and she then gave me her opinion of the consultation. And while we ‘didn’t agree’ with each other on some points we we’re able to speak freely and were both treated with courtesy, mutual respect and understanding. This isn’t about being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ it’s about listening, understanding and compromising where possible. At the end of the meeting we thanked each other and parted company smiling. That, in my opinion, is how Local Democracy should work.