Council staff in Lambeth libraries walked out today in protest at plans to close five of that borough’s 10 public libraries, turning some of them into “bookish gyms”, and threatening the future of Upper Norwood Library, which has been run jointly by Croydon Council for more than a century.
The controversial library closures scheme was called in for scrutiny at Labour-run Lambeth Council last week, and after a heated meeting scraped through by a single councillor’s vote.
Today, UNISON, the public servants’ trades union staged a walk-out after hearing that staff at Upper Norwood have been asked to look at removing books.
“We are worried that process is being ignored,” a union source told Inside Croydon. “Lambeth are making it up on the hoof, and we are running out of time to save our libraries.”
Upper Norwood Library is staffed by around half-a-dozen, mainly part-time staff, and has been open on reduced hours for three years, after a previous funding cut instigated by Croydon’s then Tory-run council. Although located within the borough of Lambeth, the Upper Norwood Library serves 19,000 Croydon residents in Upper and South Norwood.
Lambeth’s proposals for libraries include handing over Upper Norwood Library to an independent trust and leaving it to be run by volunteers and amateurs.
“This is a chance for Croydon’s Labour Council, working with their MP, Steve Reed, to play the white knight in all this and find a solution for Upper Norwood Library,” said the source.
Ahead of another Lambeth Council meeting, this time being staged this evening at Elmgreen School in Tulse Hill,UNISON issued a statement: “The libraries will be closed today as staff have walked out to try and stop our libraries closing forever.
“We have been forced into this protest, as council management are pushing through with proposals and refusing to look at alternatives despite questions and challenges from Lambeth’s Scrutiny Committee and the government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport.”
Robert Gibson, of the Save Upper Norwood Library Campaign, said, “We call on Croydon and Lambeth representatives to come together and sort out an equitable settlement for the Upper Norwood Library. Crystal Palace needs a town centre library.
“Lambeth and Croydon need to work together the community of Crystal Palace will play its part but we can’t have a library with no professional staff. We know cuts have to be made and we can play our part in delivering savings. But work with us, don’t impose a set of proposals which are abhorrent to the community.”
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