So much for Croydon Council’s promises of no library closures.
The Conservative-controlled council which has already axed the mobile library service and has decided to close New Addington’s purpose-built library to replace it with a few book shelves in the foyer of another public building, has spent the past three years attempting to find a way of off-loading the costs and responsibilities for the borough’s public libraries.
In Upper Norwood, they have found a way: simply stop paying the annual share of the running costs.
Lambeth Council is shoring up the finances of the Upper Norwood Joint Library, which had been run co-operatively (though not as a co-op) between the neighbouring boroughs for a century until Sara “Book Token” Bashford and, more recently, Tim Pollard became involved in the mismanagement of Croydon’s libraries.
But the cash from Lambeth is not sufficient to continue the full service at Upper Norwood, and it has now been announced that from the end of this month, UNJL will not be open on Mondays or Fridays, and Saturday openings will be severely restricted. Several library staff face losing their jobs.
“This is terrible news,” Matthew Bennett, a Lambeth councillor for Gipsy Hill ward, said today, “but it could have been much worse.”
Community groups working together with Lambeth have managed to keep UNJL open, even though, as Bennett says, Croydon Council “wanted to cut the funding, close the library and had valuers ready to price the building for sale to private developers”, as was reported here.
“It’s only because of the strength of feeling in the community and a strong local campaign that the library can remain open at all,” Bennett said.
Labour-run Lambeth is continuing to fund the library even though only around one-third of its users come from the borough. Croydon has been joined by another Tory-run borough, Bromley, whose residents form the third largest group of the library’s users, in refusing to contribute to the community amenity.
Bennett says that Lambeth is now looking to establish a community trust to operate the library. “Setting a trust up is going to take time – and we want to make sure that it’s as open and inclusive a process as possible so that the end result truly reflects the balance of local interest in the library and maintains a strong link to the councils who provide the money to maintain a proper library service in the heart of Crystal Palace.”
The fate of Croydon’s 13 other public libraries remains in limbo due to the council’s bungled attempt to out-source their management, with Greenwich Leisure and the council’s preferred – but inferior – bidders, John Laing Integrated Services, going through a re-tendering process, presumably (because these things are rarely made public in Croydon) on far more favourable financial terms, to help boost the commercial bottom line, all at public expense.
- “Book Token” takes one in the Eye on library closures
- Public rejects any moves to undermine Upper Norwood library
- Redundancy costs could burden Upper Norwood library trust
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