Timothy Godfrey may have announced that he is to stand down as a councillor next May, but Labour’s cabinet member for arts and culture continues to rail against the frequent poor service provided by contractors responsible for the borough’s parks, leisure centres and libraries.
Godfrey inherited outsourced pools and gyms, a parks service and libraries from the previous Tory-run council. The leisure centre contract with Fusion is not being renewed next year, and Godfrey appears to be watching very closely the performance of the Carillion subsidiary which oversees Croydon’s library service.
“You’d think that as a building firm would be better at maintaining a building,” Godfrey told Inside Croydon.
Godfrey was speaking following a visit to the public library on Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath.
“I visited the library the other Saturday and took up the broken lift, broken front door, dirty ramp, poor gardening and so forth, and passed on my significant unhappiness to the council’s very good contract monitoring officer,” he said.
“Carillion as a company are better known for being a building contractor, and it shows in how they operate their libraries.
“Carillion are also in huge financial difficulties and are in crisis mode to avoid collapse.
“The front-line staff and local management don’t get the support that they deserve.
“If they do collapse then we at Croydon Council will keep the libraries open and transfer all the front-line staff back to the council.
“In the meantime, the residents of Croydon get a sub-standard service and not the libraries we all deserve.
“Carillion are hanging on to their library contracts – three boroughs are left after they lost the contract to run Hounslow libraries. Croydon’s contract has three years left to run, and the council is worried that if it ends the contract early then it will have to pay compensation to Carillion.
“As a result of Carillion losing their Hounslow contract, our online library lost book stock, which we have been promised will be replenished at no cost to Croydon Council.
“I opposed this contract when in opposition. Everything that library campaigners said would happen has happened. It is ludicrous to put libraries out on contracts and lease buildings to operators. It makes flexible use difficult.
“Strategically we need to increase – double – the amount of money spent on books and digital offer, as any user of our libraries will be able to see that our book offer is among the oldest in the country (according to official figures by CIPFA).
“Thornton Heath has a lovely building, but it’s not maximised to the full. Some modest investment would transform the offer and a partnership with a community group could see the building used for far more hours than currently.
“Improvements are still possible, even in these difficult financial times if we work flexibly and look at partnerships to supplement the offer.”
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