City of London pressed to sign Heath Library deal

Thursday, 8th March 2012

Published: 08 March, 2012

THE CITY of London has been told to “get on with it” and sign a deal with a voluntary group fighting to keep Heath Library open.

A letter sent by Camden Council leisure chief Labour councillor Tulip Siddiq has asked the City to back the plans, adding that the Town Hall is willing to hand over a cash pot worth £124,000 to make the scheme viable.

In the private note – seen by the New Journal – to John Scott, chairman of the City’s culture, heritage and libraries committee, Cllr Siddiq said: “I feel that this community group have understood the current financial challenges we face as a council and have cooperated very well with the difficult decisions we have had to make.

“I believe their proposals have the potential to add real benefit for the community and to complement the objectives and work of Keats House Trust.”

The letter added that the cash would not be released until the City had ‘signed off’ a licence for the new group to use the building,  essentially an extension to poet John Keats’ Hampstead home.

The Heath Library will close at the end of this month after Camden Council withdrew funding from it in a series of budget cuts.

It is due to reopen on April 1 under the management of a new voluntary community group.

The City, the richest local authority in the UK with trust funds and assets worth billions, is reportedly delaying signing a deal as it is unsure whether it will maximise income from the site. It has a duty to use the buildings it manages there to promote the poet’s works.

A spokesman for the City would not be drawn on whether a deal was imminent or comment on the letter, but said it had had a “very productive” meeting with the Phoenix Group, which will run the library, and hoped an announcement would be made soon.

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