News of another embarrassing reverse at Croydon Council over the management of its libraries.
Posters and leaflets were printed recently, appealing for volunteers to help at a summer “Book Trail”, aimed at assisting younger children learn to read. The trouble was that the council-issued documents, distributed around all Croydon’s libraries, made no reference to the sensible requirement for Criminal Record Bureau checks – an essential protection today when dealing with untrained volunteers and young children.
No training. No preliminary screening interviews. No standards?
This has all happened on Sara “Book Token” Bashford‘s watch. Bashford is Croydon’s ruling Tory group’s cabinet member for customer services
, culture and sport, who has seriously suggested it would be cheaper to hand out book tokens rather than for our libraries to lend books. Of course, this is untrue; so was this just another Croydon Tory “hiccup” (copyright Councillor “Busy” Tim Pollard), orwas it deliberately misleading?
- It is Bashford who has overseen one of Croydon’s “listening”consultation processes, while at the same time presiding over serious job cuts among trained library staff under the charade of “restructuring” which has undermined the service provided.
- The same Sara Bashford who pockets more than £45,000 a year in council allowances.
- The same Sara Bashford who is paid another estimated £26,000 from the public purse for working as one of Gavin Barwell’s parliamentary assistants.
- The same Sara Bashford who also serves in the local magistrates’ court.
- And the same Sara Bashford who for many years served as a local school governor and who therefore would have received plenty of advice on the welfare of children, and CRB checks, from Croydon’s governor services.
Bashford had the serious, and potentially tragic, oversight over the Book Trail highlighted to her by concerned local residents when attending a public meeting on libraries. Organised by the local Labour party. In front of several other councillors. How embarrassing.
A hurried recall of the flawed original paperwork and issue of new posters, with mention of the requirement of CRB checks, has taken place this week. More workload for what remains of our hard-pressed library staff, more needless expense for Croydon council tax-payers.
It is not the first time that Bashford has demonstrated utter ignorance of basic legal requirements in the running of libraries, or a cavalier attitude to the law if it does not suits her.
More than once, during the running of the consultation process, Councillor Bashford was recorded saying that the council has no statutory requirement to provide a comprehensive library service. Of course, the responsibility of local authorities to provide a proper library is enshrined in law.
Was Bashford’s misinformation an accident? Or was Bashford deliberately trying to influence the consultation process towards some grand plan for the libraries’ future?
The report on the future of Croydon’s libraries is published, finally (it has been four months under wraps, denied to campaigners and residents), ahead of a debate at the Town Hall next week, when the ruling Conservative group’s latest wheeze – to sell-off its libraries – will be formally unveiled.
Inside Croydon‘s sources suggest that the libraries report shows another failure of the council to conduct a proper Equalities Impact Assessment. An EIA is a strict legal requirement, and is especially relevant in a diverse borough such as Croydon with a service such as libraries which are used widely by older residents.
That would be the third time in short order that Councillor Bashford has presided over serious shortcomings regarding the council’s legal responsibilities. Whatever happened to the Tory policy on law and order of three strikes and you’re out?
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- Croydon wards among worst in London for children’s literacy (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Tory peer condemns “meaningless” cut at David Lean Cinema (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Bashford refuses to answer key questions on libraries (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)