Even with a council consultation which was accused of being “skewed and misleading” and “ambiguous and poorly drafted”, its findings came out overwhelmingly opposed to any suggestion of closure or cuts in funding.
The council published the results of its survey yesterday, demonstrating overwhelming public support for the public library service and rejecting the cheap skate false economies of cost-cutting measures that have been used over the past couple of years as Croydon has failed to honour its agreement with Lambeth Council over Upper Norwood.
The publication of this latest consultation report differs from the non-publication and subsequent misrepresentation and misuse of public opinion in Croydon’s previous library consultation, which was used to justify the on-going privatisation of the borough’s public library service.
The contrast is stark between the handling of the Upper Norwood Joint Library consultation by Tim Pollard, the councillor put in charge of libraries in May this year, and his predecessor, the bungling Sara Bashford, and goes some way to explain why “Book Token” lost many of her responsibilities in Croydon’s cabinet.
Croydon will now find it very difficult not to find a formula for providing its full £189,000 annual funding and reconciliation with Lambeth for the future running of UNJL.
Under the joint agreement, local campaigners maintain that Upper Norwood is run more efficiently and more effectively than any other library in Croydon.
“I hope we have made it quite clear throughout this process that we had no pre-conceived solution in mind,” Pollard, the deputy leader of Croydon Conservatives, was quoted as saying in the council’s press release, which did not record whether he had his fingers crossed as he dictated it.
“Once it became clear that an alternative was needed to the old joint agreement we took this as an opportunity to fully review library provision in the area, and we are now very close to reaching a conclusion.
“I am certain that we have now gathered sufficient information, and that we now have a clear enough understanding of local need and opinion to allow us to make a decision that will make sense in the current financial climate and that will ensure we are meeting any obligations to local people.”
Of course, one morning’s visit to UNJL and any other of Croydon’s libraries, and a look at the statutes on the provision of public libraries, could have fully informed Pollard of his obligations to local people on this issue.
No pre-conceptions? Really? Croydon has been attempting to wheedle its way out of the joint agreement for several years, being obstructive, ignoring long-standing arrangements, and withholding its share of funding from UNJL. Inside Croydon obtained documentary evidence earlier this year that Croydon chief executive Jon Rouse was ordering that valuers move in on the building, possibly with a view of selling it off for profit.
In the Croydon survey, residents were asked their views on four options – funding the library as before, reducing its funding, closing it and transferring its funding to other libraries, or closing it and funding other services.
Only 13 per cent of respondents said reducing its funding would have low or no negative impact, and 9 per cent said the same of withdrawing all funding.
The library’s future now depends on Croydon, with Lambeth having cut its support by £40,000 to £170,000 for the next two years.
John Whelan, a Conservative councilor for Lambeth’s Thurlow Park ward, has suggested the councils are “closer to an agreement…than had been reported”.
He told EastLondonLines: “What I certainly think won’t happen is that they say, well, that’s it, no more money, because that will be disastrous politically for them. As far as they’re concerned, that library is in a marginal ward.”
Pollard will be presenting a paper to his Croydon Council cabinet colleagues on September 17. “What matters is that we find a sustainable future for library provision in that area.”
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- Library campaign invokes Lord Denning in official complaint (insidecroydon.com)
- Lambeth Public Meeting Brings a Positive Focus to Libraries (lambethsaveourservices.org)
- United we stand: looking for a more representative Croydon (insidecroydon.com)