Laing exit library business after taking over in Croydon

So, this is how Conservative-run Croydon Council does “business”…

carillion-logoThe council consults residents about library services. After receiving an overwhelming response that the people of Croydon want all their public libraries maintained and to continue to be run by the council, senior Tory councillors decide to go ahead and privatise the library service anyway, an option that was never mentioned in the consultation.

Croydon, together with Wandsworth’s Conservative-run council, then puts the management of their libraries out to tender in a money-saving joint wheeze. Wandsworth chooses the best-value deal for their residents. Croydon chooses the worst (this according to figures released by Wandsworth). The two councils go their separate ways over library management, thus negating a major plank of the argument about cost savings.

The bid chosen by Croydon Council happens to be that from a subsidiary company of the same firm of builders which is running a £450 million property development joint venture with … Croydon Council. What a small world! Uncanny!

The chosen company, John Laing Integrated Services, is picked by Croydon despite the fact that the company is dumping as many local authority contracts as it can, since it cannot seem to squeeze as much profit from councils as it would like. To many, JLIS appears to be a company that is exiting the library management business everywhere but in Croydon.

Then, just as Croydon Council is about to hand the juicy £30 million, eight-year contract to JLIS, the company pulls out after spotting that they would have to take on the pension liabilities of their newly acquired staff. Can’t have an employer actually fulfilling its responsibilities to its staff, can we?

Nice work if you can get it: Croydon Council's new offices. Built by Alfred McAlpine, under contract from John Laing, whose subsidiary JLIS has just been sold to Carillion, who own McAlpines...

Nice work if you can get it: Croydon Council’s new offices. Built under contract from John Laing, whose subsidiary JLIS has just been sold to Carillion, another building firm

Croydon Council’s Tories, apparently desperate to give the £30 million contract to JLIS, allow them to re-bid, this time without the troublesome pension bit. To the surprise of no one, the winner is… JLIS. The losers are the Council Tax-payers of Croydon, who end up paying for the shambolic tendering process.

Contracts signed, JLIS takes over the running of Croydon libraries at the start of October 2013. Within three weeks, Croydon Council is hailing it as “a success” (though they don’t state by what measure).

Come October 18, JLIS is sold, to Carillion, another firm more usually associated with construction work. What a small world! Uncanny!

Does this chain of events give anyone else some cause for concern over the use of public money and the procurement processes at Croydon Council?

According to reports in the trade press this afternoon, up to 1,500 staff are being transferred to Carillion (presumably with their pension rights in tact) from JLIS, which turned over £65 million according to its most recent accounts.

“JLIS has made significant progress over the last few years, but it no longer fits within our core strategy,” was the comment from Adrian Ewer, the chief executive of John Laing. Presumably JLIS fitted within Laing’s “core strategy” six months ago, when they were re-bidding to take over the running of the libraries in Croydon, the London borough where Laing are 50-50 partners in a £450 million property development scheme?

Or maybe it didn’t…

Coming to Croydon

  • Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
  • 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

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
This entry was posted in Business, Carillion, Croydon Council, John Laing Integrated Services, Libraries, URV and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Laing exit library business after taking over in Croydon

  1. Pingback: Libraries News Round-up: 22nd October 2013 | The Library Campaign

Leave a Reply