Libraries scheme “undemocratic, unwanted and unplanned”

With the leadership of the council working against open debate and discussion, even within the chambers of the Town Hall as was witnessed on Monday night, and other elements of the self-serving Croydon Establishment apparently determined to limit freedom of speech on matters of public concern, here at Inside Croydon, we take great pride in placing in the public domain some of the things “They” didn’t want you to see or hear.

Councillor Maggie Mansell: blocked from speaking at the council meeting

On Monday night, Mike Fisher and Mayor Graham Bass blocked the opposition Labour group from debating Councillor Sara “Book Token” Bashford’s unwanted policy of outsourcing (in other words, privatising) the borough’s 13 libraries. So, here we publish in full the speech which Maggie Mansell would have made at the council meeting.

The opposition Labour group had put forward this motion: “We call on this council to abandon the Cabinet Member’s plan to outsource all of Croydon’s libraries and for this council to take responsibility for managing all Croydon’s libraries in-house and allow Croydon’s professional library staff to make any savings required.”

Mansell had prepared this speech:

This council seeks to endorse a Cabinet decision taken without anything approaching a business plan.

On this side we believe in Society, we believe in collective endeavour. We believe in Public Service. Libraries are a public service valued by the people of Croydon.

The only rationale for outsourcing the libraries is to save money. But surely the first duty of public service is to serve the public. For that reason, I suggest that best value at lowest cost is best provided by an organisation with a public service ethos: in-house, a co-op, or trust. I would not expect best value for money from a profit-motivated, asset-stripping private company.

You can save £250,000 by managing the service in-house. You could invest some of that in systems. There are savings to be made from the IT contract, and some staff savings, though half the professional staff have left already.

There is no definition of the service to be provided, no red lines, no depth below which you will not sink.

In July, Councillor Fisher said that the libraries will remain in council ownership. In September, he cannot guarantee ownership. Having given away the silver for the HQ, are you now willing to give away the dinner service?

We have seen how this council manages out-sourcing. The sheltered housing care was outsourced. But they gave the provider thousands of pounds to buy low-paid staff out of their TUPE protection. Now many are sacked or on lower pay? Never mind a respectable negotiation. This council has no problem collaborating in exploitation.

This council does not want to take responsibility for libraries. They will outsource the commissioning and refuse to support an in-house bid. They will not guarantee the premises and care nothing for the staff.

Contrast with Wandsworth: Wandsworth has provided a detailed service option appraisal in their public papers. They are supporting an in-house bid with two and a half senior staff. They are investing £50,000 in a one-year pilot to develop an income stream. We would like to do this in Norbury and could do it for less.

Wandsworth councillors are asking “Why Croydon?” After all, they are undemocratic, will not co-operate with their opposition, and have shown bad faith with Lambeth over Upper Norwood Library.

Ok. If Tory councillors think that description is wrong, vote with us. Support this motion.

Without any discussion on the matter to muddy their minds, the majority Tory group voted 35 against the motion, with all 33 Labour councillors voting for it.

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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
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