£30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review

The opposition Labour group on Croydon Council is considering seeking a judicial review of the decision to hand a £30-million, eight-year library contract to John Laing Integrated Services.

According to sources familiar with the competitive tendering process, which Croydon’s Conservative-run council conducted jointly with Wandsworth over the course of more than a year, costing the Council Tax-payers £250,000, JLIS was the third, and worst, bid on grounds of cost and performance.

The company is a subsidiary of John Laing, the property firm that is building Croydon Council’s £150 million new headquarters. Library campaigners fear that by handing the control of the borough’s public libraries to the builders, the real estate may be used to help bail out the council’s troubled £450 million urban regeneration vehicle – URV – property deal with Laings.

Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of Croydon Conservatives who took charge of the library privatisation process earlier this year, when Sara “Book Token” Bashford was relieved of her responsibilities, is due to announce the choice of Laing at a Town Hall meeting tonight.

Even an application for a judicial review – requiring a senior judge to consider all the circumstances that led to the decision to award Croydon’s contract to Laings – would be likely to delay the proposed handover of Croydon’s 13 public libraries to the contractors from April next year.

Croydon’s Labour group has already said that it would call-in the libraries contract should it be returned to control of the Town Hall in 2014.

“The Labour council of 2014 will reverse this appalling privatisation programme and invest in libraries right across Croydon,” said Tony Newman, the leader of the opposition group at Croydon Council.

Newman described the Conservatives’ decision to privatise the borough’s public libraries as “completely anti-democratic”.

Newman said, “Croydon Tories have no mandate to do this. The Tories have not listened to the public on this. Instead they are shamefully taking decisions in secret. No one asked that our cherished library service should be privatised, quite the contrary in fact.

“Library campaigners do not want privatisation. I urge voters in Croydon North to use the November 29 by-election as a referendum on Croydon’s Tory Council.”

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7 Responses to £30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review

  1. dieseltaylor says:

    It is indeed a shocking cock-up. As a natural conservative I am appalled at this cop-out on the management front.

  2. Campaigners represent the views of residents and residents did not suggest privatisation as a viable option. The suggestions offered by residents to the council have been ignored.

    The outcome of this process looks very much predetermined. With the information and evidence in hand there is a strong case for a judicial review. This will result in further waste of our monies by a council who gives every impression of being unable to run services efficiently and effectively, as they were elected to do.

  3. Frustrating as the present libraries fiasco might be for Tony Newman and his Labour party colleagues; can he actually do anything about it?

    Mr Newman says that, if elected in 2014, he will rescind the eight-year contract. Is that legal? Can any incoming administration cancel a contract lawfully entered into by its predecessors?

    Is there any local precedent for this? Have the Tories rescinded any of the previous Labour administration’s contracts? And if so, how much has it cost long-suffering council tax-payers in compensation?

    Or is this political promise, as I suspect, Mr Newman blowing smoke ahead of the next council election?

  4. Conservative councillors should be reminded, incessantly, that they were elected to serve Croydon and not to cover up for their own incompetence and mistakes.

    £250,000 of our money was wasted in a make-believe process and should be returned.


  5. This is exactly what happens if the ruling party of a council fail to undertake proper consultation. Ideally big decisions, such as contracting-out council services on a long-term contract, should only be decided by a binding referendum of the Croydon residents. That way all the issues can be discussed in the open.

    For example, would we, as residents what to keep the libraries operated by the council if that means another service would have to suffer? Currently, we are not being asked that question.

    The policies of binding referendums and direct democracy are what makes UKIP different from the other major parties.

    I offer the Labour Group every support in taking this to judicial review. It is a shame that the actions of the Conservative Group have forced the opposition to have to consider such drastic action.

    Peter Staveley
    UKIP Croydon

  6. mraemiller says:

    That’ll be why David Cameron want to change the law on Judicial Review then…

  7. Pingback: Round up | Alan Gibbons' Diary

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