At tonights Cabinet Meeting of Westminster Council proposals to sell off some of the family silver will be discussed and in particular agenda item 6, considers the selling off a local iconic landmark, Marylebone Library on the Marylebone Road while moving it to a new site on Luxborough Street.
I welcome the aim to increase useage of the library to 500,000 per annum at Marylebone library, but l am surprised at the options being considered given the refurbishment cost has not been broken down to just for the library but the refurbishment of the whole of the Old Marylebone Town Hall at £25 million. In short we are told that a new library at Luxborough Street will cost £12.6 million and Moxon Street in the region of £15.9 to 19 million. So on a cost basis it has to be Luxborough St but the capital costs figures don’t compare like with like. As the £25 million refurbishment cost includes both the library and the Town Hall while the new build options do not have a Town Hall cost element at all and even between them one has a range and the other a firm price figure. Why the different measuring sticks?
No further details of the nature of the deal with London Business School(LBS) is shown for example whether the Council would still get access to the Council Chambers or whether residents will get access to their library. This could so critically turn the assessment to its favour but given these haven’t been mentioned it won’t surprise that such access has been suggested or offered by LBS.
As for the full cost-benefit analysis for Luxborough street, the loss of a playing amentity albeit a hard surface one in a City that very unfortunately does not have much playing space for young people to enjoy does not get a mention at all. I am sure this is something Sports England would take some interest and will need to be informed of this potential loss in any planning application anyway.
Alas we are seeing the continuing trend of the loss of public facilities like Marylebone library from local government and probably Marylebone police stations as well in the neighbourhood. I am not sure where this will all end as austerity in public finance increasing means selling off the family silver without anything else to replace it nor any clear evidence its going to help improve services and turn the economy around either.