So has the Sunday Express uncovered Croydon Council’s hidden agenda on libraries?
In a report published today, the Express says that American firm Library Systems Services Inc (LSSI) has Britain’s beleaguered public-funded library system in its sights and “is targeting eight libraries already and wants to snap up 15 per cent of the market in the next five years”.
And one of the authorities LSSI is considering is (cue drum roll)… Croydon.
Yes, the self-same Croydon Council which barely a week ago was “announcing” – ie. suggesting they were at the start of a process – that it would be “market testing” the privatisation of its libraries. This move came after the council had conducted a consultation on the possible closure of six of Croydon’s 13 libraries, but did not get the answer they wanted because the overwhelming message from residents was that they expect the council to continue to fulfil its legal obligations to provide a comprehensive library service.
And this is the same Croydon Council where senior officials, such as Sara “Book Token” Bashford, at the council meeting denied that they had had any talks with any third parties whatsoever.
The Express reports that LSSI “backed by powerful US stock market players”… probably some of the same Wall Street bankers who got the world into this financial mess in the first place … “believes it can make a profit by redesigning services and cutting costs. It pledges to keep libraries open and shelves stocked but critics claim it will reduce staff and introduce charges”.
After the American Civil War, when the ole South was on its knees and Yankees preyed upon their near-bankrupt farms, plantations and factories, buying up assets at dirt-cheap prices, this profiteering strategy was called “carpet bagging“.
In Croydon, our wonderful leaders on the council are already doing some of LSSI’s carpet baggers’ work for them, but at our expense. Our service-allergic council has overseen around a dozen trained and senior specialist library staff leave their jobs since April. How convenient for any in-coming commercial organisation not to have to engage in costly redundancy payments.
Ian Anstice, a member of Voices for the Library, has studied the LSSI business model which is apparently so attractive to councils such as Croydon. Anstice writes at Public Libraries News: “LSSI has been accused of reducing the numbers, pension, terms and conditions of its employees. When taking over a service, LSSI re-employs staff on new contracts. Research shows it retains the minimum of qualified library staff… Also, there is the question as to what level these staff are qualified to. It appears that LSSI de-unionises its libraries in the United States.”
The Express report says: “LSSI, which runs 16 public library systems in five US states, is currently wooing authorities with an attractive business model that promises increased community activity and invites Starbucks to set up inside branches. LSSI has spoken to ‘dozens of local authorities’ over the past three years and held meetings with five councils last week, with Croydon becoming the latest borough to consider a deal.”
This, of course, is clearly untrue. After all, only last week, Sara Bashford was telling a Croydon council meeting that no talks had been held with any commercial organisations about taking over our libraries. Bashford, who of course pockets nearly £70,000 a year in allowances from the council and Westmister salary for working as an “assistant” to MP Gavin Barwell, would not lie to a well-attended public meeting of the council.
Read more on this worrying development on the Sanderstead Library Campaign Group website.
- Book Trail tragedy averted as Bashford overlooks the law again (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- How Croydon Council tries to hide a consultation (Part 94) (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Bashford refuses to answer key questions on libraries (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Croydon arts policy: no librarians, but £1.5m for Fairfield Halls (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)