Agenda item

Public Question Time (15 Minutes)

To receive any questions from members of the public which have been submitted in advance of the meeting in accordance with the cabinet procedure rules. The deadline for the receipt of a public question is midnight Wednesday 12 June 2019.


Public question from Gail Chester, chair of trustees, Feminist Library:

“Why has Southwark Council not finalised the lease of our new premises, which is mainly dependent on a service charge agreement? In November 2018 you undertook to do a planned preventative maintenance survey, yet we’re still waiting for the service charge figure, having been packed ready to move since January.”

Response by Councillor Victoria Mills, Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Brexit

First part of question: “Why has Southwark Council not finalised the lease of our new premises”

Response: Southwark Council remains firmly committed to seeing the Feminist Library opening its doors in a great new facility at the heart of our borough. This has not happened at the speed at which both sides hoped and we are sorry that this is the case. Both our lawyers and the lawyers for the Feminist Library have been discussing the various complexities in the agreement.  This has taken a little longer than either side would like, but unfortunately there do remain some areas of disagreement and both sides will need to move a little to resolve this. The latest version of the draft lease will be returned to your lawyers this week.

Second part of question: “In November 2018 you undertook to do a planned preventative maintenance survey, yet we’re still waiting for the service charge figure’’

Response: Southwark Council sees the Sojourner Truth Centre as becoming a prominent voluntary sector hub in the heart of Peckham where a range of community and non-for-profit organisations can make significant contributions to our borough. We recognise that the building is in need of investment and a proper long-term maintenance plan. Significantly we also recognise that if we are going to support voluntary sector organisations to thrive at the centre we need to make our own financial contribution and be aware of the financial constraints that our tenants here have.

Last year we stated we will be undertaking a survey of the building and its curtilage for (1) a common parts Refurbishment, (2) a 15 years Programme of Preventative Maintenance (PPM) and (3) a new annual Service Charge (SC) budget. These are not mutually exclusive and the PPM will form part of the SC. These three pieces of work have been carried out by independent buildings, mechanical & engineering consultants and property managers. We have a draft refurbishment Specification, a draft PPM and a draft SC. All three are currently being refined to deliver a quality building fit for the future. We anticipate final specifications and schedules being available within the next week following which we shall commence the process of procuring the refurbishment. The proposed service charge will therefore be available to the building’s tenants in the same time frame – within the next week.


Supplemental question


Gail Chester asked a supplemental question seeking assurances on a maximum level on the service charge and that the lease issue could be resolved without delay.


Councillor Mills confirmed that it was hoped that the lease would be sent to the Feminist Library in the next few days. She was not in a position to give an assurance in respect of the service charge as the council had a duty to be fair and equitable to all community and voluntary sector group on such matters. Going forward, she was happy to meet with the group in order to discuss outstanding issues following receipt of the lease.