The chairman of the Norwood Society has sent an open letter to the Croydon councillors who represent Upper Norwood, and to the MP for Lambeth South, Steve Reed OBE, to appeal for help in raising more funds for Upper Norwood Joint Library, which he says will not survive the cuts announced in the past month by Lambeth and Croydon councils.
“Closure of the Upper Norwood Library would be a disaster for the local community,” Richard Lines warns the MP and councillors Pat Ryan, John Wentworth and Alisa Flemming.
It is less than a year since Reed and Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group at Croydon Council, posed for pictures signing a pledge to guarantee the future of Upper Norwood Joint Library.
Lambeth’s “co-operative” council – where Reed was Labour leader until 2012 – announced in February that it planned to axe half its library service, including cutting its funding to Upper Norwood by 60 per cent. After winning the local council elections in Croydon last May, Labour increased funding for Upper Norwood by £50,000 for this year, to match Lambeth’s contribution.
But when Lambeth cut its funding, Croydon plans to do the same.
“It is clear that Upper Norwood Library will not survive, even with reduced staff and three days a week opening, with only £100,000 a year funding from Croydon and Lambeth together,” Lines has written to his local councillors and MP.
“Upper Norwood Library is unique in the country as being funded jointly by two local authorities and has been in existence for 115 years. Even in our digital age the printed book is still important to our culture,” the Lines letter states.
“It would be particularly serious for many elderly people and young children who cannot easily travel to libraries in the centre of Croydon and Lambeth to use library facilities. But the loss of an important cultural centre in the heart of Norwood would be a major blow to the whole community. The Norwood Society, as an amenity and local history society for the area, has much of its collection of archives housed in the library and holds monthly local history meetings there which attract good attendance.
“I believe that some people may have been persuaded to vote Labour in the last borough elections by the promise to restore cuts in library funding made by the previous administration, so the new cuts by both councils are very disappointing.
“I appreciate the severe pressures on local government spending and the constant need to find savings. Spending on cultural matters like libraries is only a tiny proportion of a local council’s spending. I want to ask what Upper Norwood councillors and Croydon Council as a whole are prepared to do to assist the Trust in seeking alternative funding that will enable Upper Norwood Library to stay open and to thrive in the future.”
- MP Reed ‘guaranteed’ library’s ‘future’ for just nine months
- Upper Norwood Library ‘shellshocked’ at 60% funding cut
- “We glory in Shakespeare, yet we close our public libraries.” Listen to Alan Bennett’s monologue in full here
- Read this report on the Lambeth library campaigners’ latest meeting
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
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