Croydon Council’s latest money-saving wheeze is to close six of the borough’s libraries.
Sanderstead, Norbury, Shirley, Bradmore Green, Broad Green and South Norwood libraries all face the axe under recommendations to be put before the council Cabinet next week. According to the council’s own report, 26 staff face losing their jobs.
If the closure plan for all six libraries goes through, Croydon’s ruling Tories believe that they can save £700,000 a year from the council’s spending.
The report manages to give conflicting reasons for recommending the closures.
In most cases, it argues that declining use of the targeted libraries justifies the action. Yet at Broad Green, where the work of its dedicated librarians has seen the facility experience a 20 per cent increase in use since 2006, the report says that the library is “unsuited to its current high usage levels”.
Shirley Library has also seen an increase in the number of users over the past three years, but the council report justifies closing the facility and sending its users elsewhere because the area has the “lowest potential for new homes”. It sounds like the Tories are determined to close the libraries, come what may.
The proposals suggest that regular users of the closed libraries will in future instead be able to use Croydon Central Library or one of five “hubs” through the borough.
What the proposals fail to explain is how one of those hubs, at the new Thornton Heath Library, which already has 131,000 users each year, will manage to cope with users from the closed libraries.
According to the proposals, the displaced 63,000 users from South Norwood, Broad Green’s 61,000 users and Norbury’s 95,000 – in all, an extra 219,000 users each year – can be accommodated by services at Thornton Heath on top of its current usage.
Or will they?
The report’s examination of Norbury, the busiest of the libraries facing the chop, also suggests that Croydon residents could in future use libraries in Pollards Hill (run by Merton) or Streatham (Lambeth), because it is more convenient for Croydon to shut its library rather than pay to repair the building’s leaking roof.
At least the report admits that, “The library delivers a number of children’s activities, homework help clubs and a reading group which would no longer take place at Norbury.”
Tory plans to build their nice new Town Hall offices remain unaffacted by any cuts.