Croydon Council had to be threatened with legal action to prevent the closure of Upper Norwood Joint Library a year ago.
That was the revelation made today, as Steve Reed, the Labour candidate for the Croydon North by-election, visited the under-threat library with Harriet Harman, the Camberwell and Peckham MP and his party’s deputy leader.
Reed is the leader of Lambeth Council, which has jointly funded and managed UNJL for more than a century with Croydon.
Campaigning in Croydon North this morning, Reed said, “They tried to close it down a year ago and we served legal notices to stop them because they were in breach of the contract.
“We stopped that – now they have tried to cut £100,000 of the funding. Croydon Council are trying to destroy this much-loved community facility,” Reed said when lobbied by concerned local campaigners today.
Upper Norwood Joint Library could be a touchstone issue in Croydon North, since UNJL serves nearly 20,000 locals.
“The library’s only here because Labour protected it from Tory tricks,” said Reed, though even as an MP, it’s hard to know what he might be able to do with the latest round of “Tory tricks” over Croydon’s other libraries.
Having had to abandon ill-considered and ludicrous schemes to offer book tokens to the borough’s library users – a plan hatched in the constituency office of Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell – and then having got no answers wanting closure or outsourcing when they “consulted” the borough’s residents, Croydon’s local Tories have now spent £250,000 on a 14-month exercise to justify privatisation by splitting running costs with Wandsworth.
Only now it seems that Wandsworth want to go their own way and appoint not-for-profit operators GLL, as announced last week. Croydon is expected to make an announcement on its preferred bidder this week; the continuing silence, ahead of a council meeting on November 21, suggest some degree of disarray at Taberner House.
Labour locally has already promised to cancel any privatisation deal on the borough’s public libraries should they win at the council elections in 2014, while Reed has pledged to do his utmost to preserve the UNJL for generations to come if elected as MP for the area on November 29.
“By electing Steve as their MP local people will be sending a message to Croydon Council ‘hands off our library’,” Harman said.
“People I have met this morning regard this is a vital resource whether they are studying or encouraging their children to read. I congratulate them on their campaign against Croydon Conservative’s short-sighted cuts.
“This is another example of how Conservative cuts are going too far and too fast and damaging communities and families,” said Harman.
The declared candidates for the Croydon North by-election are:
- Monster Raving Loony John Cartwright
- National Front Richard Edmonds
- Respect Lee Jasper
- Green Shasha Khan
- UKIP Winston McKenzie
- Liberal Democrat Marisha Ray
- Labour Steve Reed
- Young People’s Party Robin Smith
- Communist Ben Stevenson
- Conservative Andrew Stranack
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