A planned meeting by Brian Paddick at the under-threat Upper Norwood Library at lunchtime today had to be hastily re-arranged after Croydon Council refused the LibDem London Mayor candidate permission to hold his election event on public premises.
A spokesman for the Paddick campaign told Inside Croydon: “Brian was asked to leave because Croydon Council told the staff that he wasn’t allowed in the library.
“We assume that’s because they don’t want it publicised that they have withdrawn the funding from what Brian considers to be a ‘jewel in the local community’s crown’.”
The historic Upper Norwood Library’s future has been put in jeopardy, despite Lambeth Council, which has shared the management of the amenity with Croydon for many years, being keen to preserve this important facility.
Croydon Council is controlled by the Conservatives, who have repeatedly denied that they intend to close any libraries under their control. In January, Inside Croydon published a letter from Croydon’s CEO, Jon Rouse, to Lambeth Council, instructing them to conduct valuation work on the library, in secret, to prepare for its closure.
Campaigners in the Crystal Palace area have worked hard to attract interest and support for their library in the run-up to the local elections.
But on Monday evening, Croydon Council’s “director of community and support services”, Jane Doyle, sent an email to the Upper Norwood Library Campaign which said:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I understand that arrangements have been made for Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor, to visit Upper Norwood tomorrow, to give his support to the Upper Norwood Library campaign.
I would like to make clear that in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1986 and the Local Authority Code of Publicity made under it, which prohibit Councils arranging or funding political publicity, the UNJL premises and staff, as a resource of Lambeth and Croydon Councils, cannot be used to facilitate such campaigning or publicity for any individual or group in relation to the forthcoming GLA election.
Neither Brian Paddick, nor anyone else, is allowed to use these, or other Council premises for the purposes of their campaigns, including speaking to staff and users within the library. Therefore, if anyone comes to the library tomorrow and seeks to use it for what might be considered the purposes of their campaign, they will be requested to leave the UNJL premises immediately.
What is oddly inconsistent about this email is that less than a fortnight earlier another candidate for London Mayor, the independent Siobhan Benita, also visited Upper Norwood Library to voice her own support for it to be kept open.
Nothing was done to prevent her from visiting the library, meeting users and staff, and having campaign photographs taken.
Perhaps Croydon Council has noticed that the provisions of the Local Government Act 1986 have altered in the last 10 days?
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Candidate has second worst attendance record at Town Hall (insidecroydon.com)
- Bovvered? National Libraries Day, but not in Croydon (insidecroydon.com)
This is shameful – a complete abuse and twisting of the law to save the Conservative’s embarassment paid for by Croydon taxpayers.
I have some observations:
1. As you say Siobhan Benita was at the library a few weeks ago, inder the same legislation.
2. Using the Croydon judgement applied to Paddick, no politician would be able to enter a public building during the election period. I am sure Boris Johnson has visited council premises and indeed has had visits, as did Tory Ministers in the run up to the 2010 election. Explain that Croydon Council.
3. Maybe Croydon can explain why John Bownas, a council employee in the press office, helped with the hustings organised by the Croydon Advertiser – not only is he an employee but he would be politically restricted. Whilst the hustings had more than 1 candidate (and was not organised to support 1 individual or party), he just should not have been helping them – it was an event organised by the local press, a commericial business – he shouldn’t have been anywhere near it. So why the inconsistency?
4. The Upper Norwood Library is jointly run with Lambeth – did Croydon consult them?
5. Probably the most important point: my understanding of the Act is that is was designed to stop Councils using public money to promote candidates and particularly to use publicity or individual positions for party purposes. It was not to stop individual candidates entering council premises as part of their campaign or to speak out against particular decisions.
Paddick’s visit to the library would NOT have lead to any campaigning expenditure by the Council. This is an outraguous abuse and completely twisting the legislation. It was to stop councils using public money for their own purposes – it was a Thatcherite policy a bit like political restriction. Boris Johnson has used his position to announce all sorts of funding for Croydon recently – so why haven’t Croydon declined the money?
6. This point about expenditure is important – the Act is designed to stop political expenditure – this was clearly NOT the case here.
7. What involvement has Jon Rouse had in this matter? They were probably embarassed by the Benita publicity but this is really over the top and Lambeth should be very angry if not consulted over this.