Inside Croydon has received reports that staff at the Croydon Adult Learning And Training – CALAT – in New Addington have been told that the planned move of the local library into their building will take place in September.
The council wants to use the open foyer area on the ground floor of the CALAT building and some rooms on the first floor, where purpose-built teaching rooms for hair and beauty treatments have been stripped, for library services previously provided in a purpose-build building.
Questions have been put at Town Hall meetings for the past 18 months or so, without any clear answer being provided by the senior Conservatives councillors who control the council.
According to one Tory councillor, the New Addington Library faces closure because the repair and maintenance of the building on Central Parade would be too expensive (though presumably costing less than the £145 million being spent on the new council HQ).
The implication for book range and other library activities such as the New Addington homework club and Saturday morning group for parents and toddlers, and the office of a housing duty officer, is not known. It is clear that the space in CALAT will not be able to house the same number and range of books as was previous stocked by the library.
In the past, Sara Bashford, when she was the councillor in charge of Croydon’s libraries, admitted to being committed to the move without having considered the implications for the library’s book stock and services. “I could not say there will be the same number of books definitely,” she said in January.
In a style which is becoming familiar, of determining a course of action and then “consulting” the public, Bashford also said, “When we have exact plans we will talk to residents and find out what works best for them.”
Bashford – who throughout her time in charge of Croydon’s libraries maintained that there would be no library closures – may yet find herself as the subject of a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman because of her mishandling and misrepresentation of libraries and a consultation over their future.
Local residents in New Addington have felt unable to lodge a complaint over this library closure with their MP, Gavin Barwell, because Bashford works in his office as a constituency assistant.
Under the planned new layout for the building, it seems that CALAT classes will occupy just half of the upstairs space.
CALAT staff in New Addington have already undergone some upheaval, with the council “redefining” some roles, with some redundancies. Some positions are being advertised because there are not enough staff to cover all classes.
Local councillors, some of whom hold regular ward surgeries in the library, have been given no information by the council about the proposals. The Labour councillors for Fieldway and New Addington wards characterise the library closure as the latest sign of Croydon Council’s abandonment of their neighbourhood.
The moves will also impact the council’s housing department officers in the area. Fieldway and New Addington comprises about 40 per cent council housing, with Croydon council responsible for a lot more, as there are mixed ownership blocks and an estate where all common land and paths are council-owned with service charges paid by homeowners.
Until recently, the caretaking manager, the east district area manager and all the tenancy officers for the area have all been based at East District Housing Office. “Now, from what we can tell (because we have not had a definitive description), there will be a duty officer in CALAT, and everyone else will be in Taberner House or the Rouse Tower, although the tenancy officers will apparently be out and about more in their patches,” one concerned local resident told Inside Croydon.
There has been a series of other changes in services which represent a withdrawal of services from the area:
- Youth workers pulled out (including detached youth workers no longer based in the area, but coming into the area about one evening per week)
- Social Services office shut
- Dedicated streetscene officer gone
- Dedicated neighbourhood enforcement officer gone
- Community development workers gone
- Early intervention services reduced
- Local welfare benefits services cut
“This also links in with massive cuts to the funding of community groups, which have either shut, for example the Cyber Cafe, or have been scaled down, such as the women’s group, and family centre,” said the concerned resident.
They added: “Despite the significant anti-social behaviour and crime issues in the area, it looks like the police office is going to be shut and the effective number of police officers reduced or spread over a wider area.”
The council’s plans for the library and council offices remain unknown, though some believe that the building will be demolished without anything planned to be built on the site.
“This is another slap in the face for the New Addington community by Croydon’s Tory Council,” said Simon Hall, the one of the Labour councillors for Fieldway.
“New Addington is a 22,000-person town which has a strong sense of identity and a strong sense of community. People are keen to improve the area and the lives of themselves and other people who live up here.
“But, to meet the major challenges and issues we have, there is a need for locally provided public services by people who understand the area and a strong visible presence from the council and other public services. These latest cuts and closures go in the wrong direction for the people of New Addington.”
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