Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, has sent the Save the Upper Norwood Library campaign a supportive message as the campaigners try to stop the “decommissioning” of their library services as part of Lambeth Council’s scheme to close half of that borough’s public libraries.
Upper Norwood Library has been run jointly by Lambeth and Croydon councils for more than a century.
Reed’s intervention is highly significant because, before becoming an MP in 2012, he had been leader of Lambeth Council, and many of those councillors now implementing the “co-operative” council’s policies are his former colleagues whose careers he helped to develop.
Indeed, Matthew Bennett, councillor for the affected Gipsy Hill ward and a member of the Brixton Town Hall cabinet which is implementing the library cuts, was until recently part of Reed’s parliamentary staff as his “head of office”.
Reed has accepted a position in the shadow cabinet of the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who wants outright opposition to cuts imposed by the Conservative Government under the guise of “austerity”, rather than – as Labour-run Lambeth Council seems to want to do – implementing the Tory cuts, however reluctantly, while wringing their hands and wailing.
“Steve Reed has written to me to tell me he ‘remains committed’ to the Joint Declaration he made with the Upper Norwood Library Campaign in April,” said Robert Gibson, the spokesman for the Upper Norwood Library Campaign.
“This statement was also supported by Helen Hayes, the MP for Dulwich and West Norwood.
“This is the bedrock basis for moving forward that the community of Crystal Palace has told its elected politicians time and time again. Crystal Palace residents of both Lambeth and Croydon boroughs will not settle for post code lottery discrimination of service provision.
“In times of austerity, the residents of Crystal Palace will rally round to protect its community infrastructure but the current proposals of decommissioning the service with insufficient funding for full-time professional library staff is setting up the Upper Norwood Library Trust to fail.
“We want to see the Upper Norwood Joint Library receive at least the same funding per head of population as equivalent town centre libraries in Croydon and Lambeth, and Croydon to meet their commitment to fully match all funding from Lambeth, including the endowment fund,” Gibson said.
“We support the community trust that has been formed to take control of the library and help raise much-needed additional funds to support and enhance its professionally staffed library service.
“We look forward to working with both councils, the Trust and the community to find a way forward that is fair to the entire community of Upper Norwood and Crystal Palace and which guarantees the long-term stable future which the library so desperately needs and the community wants to see.”
Lambeth Council is holding a meeting in Streatham on Monday at which it is expected to approve proposals which will see five of its 10 libraries closed, with three of them to be handed over to Greenwich Leisure to be transformed into some sort of bookish gyms.
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