Civica pulls out of libraries bid because of risk to its “brand”

And then there were four.

Civica, one of the five companies bidding for the Croydon and Wandsworth privatised libraries contract, has pulled out of the process citing “potential risk to the Civica brand of taking on a contract which is outside their core competence”.

Sort of prompts the question why they pitched for it in the first place.

In total, the Civica group manages more than 1,500 libraries worldwide, including 11 library services that are members of the South East Library Management Services consortium.

We have flagged up the all-too-cosy relationship forged by Civica with Croydon Council in the past. The company sponsored one of the back-slapping local authority awards which was won by… Croydon. So, clearly, there was never any nod and a wink towards any preferential treatment.

Civica’s withdrawal means it is likely that Wandsworth council’s in-house bid – originally rejected in the shortlisting process – will now be added to the other four as a makeweight. Or, as it is put in formal council-speak, “to maintain a credible level of competition upon which to base a contract award”.

There’s credible, and then there is… well, some have suggested that the entire process, at a cost to the Croydon Council Tax-payers of £250,000, is mere window-dressing before handing the deal to LSSI.

LSSI is one of four remaining bidders, the others being Essex County Council, Greenwich Leisure Trust and John Laing Integrated Services Ltd (yep, a subsidiary of the same John Laing property developer company that Croydon Council has “partnered” on £450million-worth of deals in the borough).

LSSI is the American company characterised as “carpet-baggers”, who were having secret negotiations long before any formal process was ever announced by Croydon’s discredited former cabinet member for libraries, Sara “Book Token” Bashford.

Civica’s withdrawal from the process was revealed in Wandsworth council meeting minutes last month. The company wrote that, “Having undertaken an internal risk assessment and considering the potential risk to the Civica brand of taking on a contract which is outside their core competence, they felt they could not take that risk and must withdraw”.

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