Library campaign invokes Lord Denning in official complaint

Lord Denning: tried to make rulings suit the “ordinary man”

Library campaigners in Croydon are considering filing a maladministration complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman over Councillor Sara Bashford’s handling of the borough’s libraries.

They will claim that Bashford, Conservative councillor for Selsdon and Ballards, deliberately misled the council cabinet and the public over the outcome of a consultation conducted in 2010-2011, in order to justify the policy of outsourcing the management of the borough’s libraries to outside organisations.

Inside Croydon reported earlier this week that when Croydon Council announced that it was to conduct a privatisation process of the borough’s libraries, it made false statements that this was as a result of “demand” from the public. In truth, only one person among thousands of responders even mentioned outsourcing.

Library campaigners have sought legal advice on Croydon Council’s handling of its libraries, and this suggests that as well as defects in the consultation process, there may also have been serious errors made under the council’s own internal procurement rules or under EU law.

It all gives Inside Croydon its first opportunity to quote the late judge, Lord Denning, the former Master of the Rolls, the man who conducted the inquiry in to the Profumo Affair which ultimately brought down a Tory government, and who coined the phrase “the man on the Clapham omnibus” when seeking to find a commonsense solution to a legal issue.

Denning offered a legal definition of maladministration as including “bias, neglect, inattention, delay, incompetence, ineptitude, perversity, turpitude, arbitrariness and so on”. Library campaigners may use this to make a maladministration case over Croydon’s handling of its library consultation and outsourcing, as well as possible call for a judicial review.

Bashford, whose day job is working as a constituency assistant for Croydon Central’s Conservative MP Gavin Barwell – making it impossible for constituents to take their complaints over the handling of the borough’s libraries to their MP – had her council cabinet responsibility for the borough’s libraries taken away from her in April.

  • “Inside Croydon is an attack site”: Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central
  • There will be no library closures: Sara Bashford, Conservative councillor in charge of borough’s libraries, 2011
  • “No incinerator in or near Croydon”: Waddon ward’s Conservative candidates, April 2010
  • Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Education, Gavin Barwell, Libraries, London-wide issues, Sara Bashford and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Library campaign invokes Lord Denning in official complaint

  1. Councillor Bashford should resign her job of constituency assistant to Mr. Barwell or her cabinet post at Croydon Council.
    In times of austerity, it is unacceptable that one person should have have two posts in the public sector when so many are unemployed in Croydon.

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  3. The library services sector has changed dramatically over the last 12 months during which Croydon’s services have been under review and outsourcing has been considered. This does perhaps suggest that the original list of shortlisted suppliers might not be the ones who would be considered today.

    The government has introduced new mechanisms to procure library IT services, which did not exist at the time of the original tender notice.

    A Council can now purchase an IT service without going through extensive and expensive procurement processes by simply buying a service from the government cloud – the G-Cloud. This means for example that the IT side of a library service can be purchased for less that £50,000 per annum for a service of 50 libraries. I do not know the current costs of the IT side of Croydon’s libraries, but my guess would be that the IT costs may well be as ten times this amount.

    This means that over the last year, the costs associated with IT provision could potentially be reduced by as much as 90%.

    When Sara Bashford and her team started to look at library services, the libraries landscape was very different. Councils had to go out to tender with a PreQualification Questionnaire (PQQ), because the cost of the IT side of managing Croydon’s library services was estimated to be more than £100,000. Today the IT library services can be managed for considerably less than £100,000 per annum.

    The original tender notices did not distinguish between total library service outsourcing and IT outsourcing. It makes a lot of sense to keep libraries open and to retain the services of the librarians, who have got to know the local community. Library patrons want to talk to real librarians, who can give expert advice. If you look at the principle objectives of a library as outlined on the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals) website, there is little reference to books and magazines. Librarianship is about supporting all members of the community and the training of librarians reflects this.

    The old PQQ mechanism for procurement excluded some of the library service providers on the G-Cloud, because, if the providers had responded, they would have been in breach of codes of conduct agreed within the library services industry.

    The original tender notice did not recognise working practices within the library services industry and did not anticipate the huge advances, which have since been made to reduce the investments now required to run the IT side of library services.

    For the above reasons serious consideration should be given as to whether the tender process should be halted forthwith and whether Croydon libraries could just keep the libraries open by making better decisions with regard to the IT side of library services, which could indeed be hosted saving lots of money without closing libraries. I do not however attach any blame to any one person for advances in technology and procurement strategies over the last 12 months.

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  5. I would be interested to know exactly how many hours a week Mrs Bashford actually spends on Croydon Council business and an explanation as to how she can do two jobs simultaneously.

    I would also like to know exactly what ‘hold’ Laings has over our council. To me it’s seems unnatural that this company gets beneficial treatment. But then I’m old and confused (but not stupid).

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  6. Lord Denning was an innovative judge and many of his judgments were well written and easy to follow. However we shouldn’t forget he was also the judge who tried to stop the “Fares Fair” policy of Ken Livingstone and the Labour GLC in the 80s.

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    • Agreed, David.

      Wasn’t there just the hint of political interference from No10 over the judicial process at that time, to block a populist and very successful policy being introduced for the benefit of London and Londoners?

      Can’t think who might have stooped so low as to try to interfere with the independent judiciary.

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