According to sources familiar with the competitive tendering process, which Croydon’s Conservative-run council conducted jointly with Wandsworth over the course of more than a year, costing the Council Tax-payers £250,000, JLIS was the third, and worst, bid on grounds of cost and performance.
The company is a subsidiary of John Laing, the property firm that is building Croydon Council’s £150 million new headquarters. Library campaigners fear that by handing the control of the borough’s public libraries to the builders, the real estate may be used to help bail out the council’s troubled £450 million urban regeneration vehicle – URV – property deal with Laings.
Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of Croydon Conservatives who took charge of the library privatisation process earlier this year, when Sara “Book Token” Bashford was relieved of her responsibilities, is due to announce the choice of Laing at a Town Hall meeting tonight.
Even an application for a judicial review – requiring a senior judge to consider all the circumstances that led to the decision to award Croydon’s contract to Laings – would be likely to delay the proposed handover of Croydon’s 13 public libraries to the contractors from April next year.
Croydon’s Labour group has already said that it would call-in the libraries contract should it be returned to control of the Town Hall in 2014.
“The Labour council of 2014 will reverse this appalling privatisation programme and invest in libraries right across Croydon,” said Tony Newman, the leader of the opposition group at Croydon Council.
Newman described the Conservatives’ decision to privatise the borough’s public libraries as “completely anti-democratic”.
Newman said, “Croydon Tories have no mandate to do this. The Tories have not listened to the public on this. Instead they are shamefully taking decisions in secret. No one asked that our cherished library service should be privatised, quite the contrary in fact.
“Library campaigners do not want privatisation. I urge voters in Croydon North to use the November 29 by-election as a referendum on Croydon’s Tory Council.”
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