Our bookish gyms correspondent GENE BRODIE reports on how the local Labour MP has vowed to oppose plans to close a library in her constituency, as suggested in a report commissioned by the Labour-run council
Sarah Jones, the Labour MP for Croydon Central, says she is “completely opposed” to the recommendations of a consultants’ report, commissioned by Croydon Council, that suggests that Shirley Library could be closed or re-located in a money-spinning property deal.
As Inside Croydon revealed, the report was completed in September last year, but the council kept its dynamite recommendations under wraps until just before its adoption as policy at a Town Hall cabinet meeting last week.
This prompted complaints from opposition Tory councillors who felt that they had been denied a reasonable opportunity to brief themselves on the details within the document.
Inside Croydon has since learned that the brains trust in charge of the Labour-run council also failed to share their politically damaging libraries report even with the local Labour MP.
Shortly after Inside Croydon exclusive on the Red Quadrant libraries report this week, Jones tweeted her worries.
“A concerning consultancy report sent to Croydon Council…” Jones wrote, presumably trying to save face for the Labour council which had briefed the report’s authors, “… has suggested options to close or relocate Shirley Library.
“I am completely opposed to this and will be working with the local community to ensure these proposals are ignored.”
Jones’s opposition to the plans for Shirley seems likely to be matched by politicians representing Sanderstead (the ward of Tim Pollard, the leader of the Tory opposition on the council), Coulsdon and Purley, where their libraries have been similarly earmarked for potential property development.
Indeed, even Labour councillors who were originally denied sight of the report until last week have been expressing serious reservations about its proposals for volunteer librarians and reduced professional staffing levels, as well as “property portfolio” disposals.
Andrew Pelling, a councillor of Waddon ward, whose residents tend to use the Central and Purley public libraries, has described the report’s recommendations as “eccentric” and “a nonsense”.
In a message to Waddon residents on social media, Pelling wrote: “It is good to be thinking about providing a modern, up-to-date library service and to reflect on where the service goes now it is back in-house.”
He then adds, in respect of the Purley Library proposals, “It is eccentric that the consultants’ report uses a lack of access to car use as a proxy for social deprivation. I thought we were encouraging people not to use cars…
“It is good that the report recognises that planned population growth in Waddon and Purley is ‘a factor’ in ‘essential’ Purley library services. Purley provision must be defended… It is a nonsense for the report to suggest that a new South Croydon Library would serve Kenley.”
Pelling added his thoughts on the recommendations for Bradmore Green and Coulsdon libraries.
“Croydon Council has toyed on-and-off with closing Bradmore Green Library throughout its existence since 1965… The report did not seem to realise that Old Coulsdon and Coulsdon are two very separate places. Old Coulsdon is 250 feet above Coulsdon, as well I know having walked the steep hills of Coulsdon as a child, local councillor and London Assembly Member.
“I am worried about single-person or indeed no-person operation of smaller Croydon branch libraries – an unsafe proposal in the consultants’ report.”
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Shirley Library is a delightful building of its period, which is contemporary with the local estate built in around 1930. It is well-placed, with a bus stop right outside, and two more serving the shopping parade just across the road. I wish the Council would give some priority to the needs and environment of its residents rather than concentrating on building massive blocks of flats upon every scrap of land it can lay its hands on. I for one would be very sad to see this much loved library replaced by another soulless modern pile.
So Red Quadrant the private consulting firm to the Blairite Outsourcing Labour Cadre is calling for more voluntary workers and reduced qualified staff for Libraries and no doubt even more fees for private consultants to tell them what to do. Now this sounds all so familiar. Does anyone remember that Prime Minister and another of his big ideas which ran aground. No doubt the Paul Scotts of this world will look for any pretext to locate development land, but it sounds like they really need to hire more imaginative cronies to deliver the goods for them in the face of some practical political opposition.
It is amazing how a cash-strapped council can waste tens of thousands pounds commissioning something to deliver another political parties “Big Society”.