Another offering for the bulging file of “Croydon Council Adds Insult to Injury” comes from the splendid News from Crystal Palace site, which reports that leading figures at our Town Hall are seriously considering burdening any community trust which takes control of Upper Norwood Joint Library next April with massive redundancy costs for laying off staff previously employed by Croydon Council.
This bombshell was raised at the controversial recent scrutiny committee chaired by the far from impartial Steve Hollands.
Without bothering to take a vote, and ignoring impassioned pleas making the case for properly funding the library, Hollands’ Conservative-majority scrutiny body rubber-stamped his Tory council cabinet’s decision to deliberately under-fund Upper Norwood Joint Library, which has been run by Croydon together with Lambeth council for more than a century, but which now faces an uncertain future.
Lambeth will be providing £170,000 towards the library’s running costs for 2013-2014. Croydon has decided to put up just £75,000 as its contribution to the joint operation.
According to News from Crystal Palace, redundancy costs at the library could run to at least £100,000.
In a written report to the council cabinet last month, a Croydon officer noted, “The cost of redundancies for the full staff group would be in the region of £100,000 plus and in this circumstance, it is unlikely that support to share the cost would be given by Lambeth.”
Tim Pollard, the cabinet member responsible for the borough’s public library service, admitted at the scrutiny meeting that so far, no redundancy consultations with staff had been held.
According to NFCP: “A woman officer then said they had to wait for the decision of that night’s meeting. The process that has to take place with ‘not for profit’ funding meant they had to go to the community and ask for an expression of interest, she said.”
Carole Bonner, a Labour councillor for Fieldway ward with some expertise in redundancy processes, told the scrutiny meeting, “The responsibility lies with Croydon as the employer. I can’t imagine Lambeth will be willing to contribute towards that given the disparity in these costs.
“You mustn’t forget your legal obligations on consulting staff are onerous.”
Illustrating quite how badly the situation has been handled, or thrown together, Hollands showed that no preparatory work had yet been done over the employment rights of Upper Norwood librarians. “My understanding is there will be something in a cabinet paper that’s being put together,” Hollands said, with barely six months until Croydon expects a community trust to take charge of the much-admired local amenity.
It appears to be yet another situation where our council leaders prefer to squander Council Tax-payers’ cash on redundancy payments and legal costs, rather than on funding good public services.
Expect library workers to be consulting employment lawyers urgently to pursue the possibility of constructive dismissal cases against the council, and therefore ever more costs for Croydon thanks for the mishandled demolition of a previously well-run public service.
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