The Feminist Library has been granted a six month stay of execution by Southwark Council, after thousands of people signed a protest petition as the library was asked for rent for the first time in seven years.
Speaking at Southwark Cabinet meeting on March 15, the council’s finance boss Fiona Colley said that the library’s current Westminster Bridge Road home is not the “solution long term” but granted the group an extension to its rent deadline. Cllr Ian Wingfield offered advice on finding a new home for the library at the same meeting.
A petition, signed by over 15,000 people, had been handed to the council last month, calling for the “rent increase” to be dropped. However, the council later revealed that the library had not paid any rent, only contributing a service charge.
Fiona Colley, Southwark Council cabinet member for Finance, Performance and Modernisation, explained last month: “Whilst we recognise and appreciate the work that’s been done by the Library, we have a very clear duty to ensure our assets are being managed responsibly, and that we are being fair to other tenants who are paying open market rent.
“I have personally offered to meet with them to discuss the situation and try to find a way forward that meets both our needs, but at a time when the council’s funding from government is being cut by £47m we are simply unable to continue to subsidise their rent.”
The council is now asking the library for an annual market rent of £18,000 along with its £12,000 annual service charge. It has been given a six month deadline to respond to these requirements.
The library offered to pay rent of £500 per month during the interim period. Southwark declined the offer and reccomended that the library put the money towards hiring an employee who can help locate a new home for the library.