Croydon’s Conservative-run council is forcing through policies that are so unpopular that the local Labour group is joining forces with UKIP to oppose them.
This unlikely political alliance has come about to seek a judicial review of Croydon Council’s decision to hand over the borough’s 13 public libraries to a subsidiary of the building firm, John Laing.
A senior figure in Croydon’s Labour group has confirmed that they will work with UKIP to take the decision to an independent judge.
Croydon’s controversial decision to award an eight-year contract, worth an estimated £30 million, to John Laing Integrated Services has already been called in for scrutiny by Conservative councillors, who had all voted in favour of the decision. The opposition Labour group also called in the decision for scrutiny.
The scrutiny process could affect the contract offered to JLIS and has so delayed the process, which had aimed to privatise the borough’s libraries by April 2013.
John Laing is already the 50-50 partner of Croydon Council in a failing £450 million CCURV, or “urban regeneration vehicle” property speculation scheme. Under the terms of the CCURV agreement, Laing gets first refusal on any council properties put up for sale or redevelopment, and library campaigners are very worried that the outsourcing contract may see library buildings closed and handed over to the developers.
The purpose-built library building in New Addington has already been earmarked for closure, probably to make way for developers to build a supermarket.
According to library campaigner Elizabeth Ash, the terms of the library outsourcing contract being offered to JLIS are to maintain the existing service, but the “service that has been run into the ground since before the consultation began, with huge loss of staff, greatly depleted book stock, and lack of service in our libraries as staff are often ill-equipped and untrained.
“The strain this has placed on our original staff, and on those new trying to fulfil the role, must be immense,” Ash said.
“What we know, if this contract goes ahead, is that the terms and conditions of our remaining staff will be maintained, as they have no alternative … but there is no commitment to keep the many staff we understand are on short-term contract, so new staff can be taken on with lesser qualifications, pay and conditions,” said the Sanderstead resident.
For more on this story:
- Secrets and libraries: Croydon adds to shabby reputation
- £30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review
- Worrying signs of neglect in Croydon’s under-threat libraries
- American firm limps away from race to run Croydon’s libraries
- Civica pulls out of libraries bid because of risk to its brand
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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