Another U-turn as council backs down on library cuts

There are so many U-turns going on at Croydon Town Hall, Mike Fisher’s “top” team of councillors “Two Permits” Thomas and “Book Token” Bashford must be getting dizzy.

After last week’s embarrassing if unapologetic parking climb down [to be continued…] comes word that Croydon Council’s Philistinism on arts and culture may not be extended to the closure of up to six local branch libraries (as was first reported by Inside Croydon). Not this year, any way.The council’s draft budget for next year sees £1 million sliced from the £9 million libraries spend, but with no immediate closures to be announced, as had been feared.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all six branch libraries will survive unscathed. The rumour around Katherine Street is that one of the six libraries – Sanderstead, Norbury, Shirley, Bradmore Green, Broad Green and South Norwood – may find itself merged into operating from a local school, while another may be forced to trial a “Big Society” experiment by being run by volunteers.

Whatever way you slice it, there’s still going to be a cut of 1/9th of the library spending that there was last year. The savings proposed under the library closure plan put forward by Councillor Bashford, Croydon’s Cabinet member for Customer Services, Culture and Sport, were supposed to save £700,000.

The council’s library consultation ends this weekend, but the Croydon Guardian is reporting that Fisher, the leader of Croydon’s misruling Tory group, as now saying that the council was looking at all options to keep them open. Funny: we are sure that the council report was all about closing them.

“This is not a slash and burn budget,” Fisher is reported to have said. Tell that to the 300 council workers about to be made redundant on reduced severance terms.

The intriguing thing about the success of the on-going parking campaign and the fight to save the libraries is that these have been run by ordinary Croydon residents, distrustful of politicians of any hue.

The protestors are certainly not pinkie Trots, as some senior Croydon figures have tried to malign them. Thoughtful, intelligent, many local business people, and some might even be described as “middle class”.

Even Conservative MP Gavin Barwell joined the parking campaign for his Croydon Central constituents and wrote complaints about proposals for Shirley library, while absentee Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway managed to energise himself for long enough over a local issue to oppose the closure of two libraries in the south of the borough.

Single-issue residents’ campaigns have a habit of dissipating once the nub of the matter is resolved. But you cannot help wondering whether the absolute fury that is being developed by the parking and library campaigners will drift away on the breeze so easily for Croydon Council.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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