Library closures are on Mayor’s lists of cuts for New Year

All Croydon’s public libraries will close next week for a 10-day break in service – from Christmas Eve, Saturday December 24 until Monday January 2.

Under threat: South Norwood was one of five libraries considered for closure under a previous cost-cutting plan

But there’s growing concerns among Katharine Street sources that some of the borough’s 13 public libraries may never re-open fully again, as Tory Mayor Jason Perry dusts off some old Conservative plans for closures and property sales.

While several London boroughs are utilising their public buildings, including some libraries, as warm banks over the Christmas period to assist residents struggling to meet heating bills and the cost of living crisis, cash-strapped Croydon Council is shutting up its libraries in a cost-saving measure of its own.

Apart from Central Library (which still opens five days per week), most of Croydon’s libraries have been on much-reduced opening hours for the last two years, as part of the council’s response to its financial collapse in 2020. Because of staff cuts and other budget reductions, six libraries now open only half the week while five others – Broad Green, Shirley, Bradmore Green, Purley and South Norwood – only open their doors on two days each week.

Library closing times: the council notice that went up last week

And at last night’s full council meeting in the Town Hall Chamber, Mayor Perry admitted that permanent closures of libraries, followed by the sale of the properties, are among the plans being considered by his Conservative administration.

The Tories tried to get rid of some of Croydon’s public libraries before, in 2011 and 2012 when they controlled the council and Perry was a cabinet member. Since last month, when he oversaw the issuing of Croydon’s third Section 114 Notice in two years, a pre-emptive admission that he won’t be able to balance the borough’s budgets in 2023-2024, Perry has bought-in to the notion that Croydon will henceforward have to be a “minimalist” authority – delivering only those services that must be provided by law.

Public libraries are one such statutory service. It’s just never been clear how many public libraries a borough the size of Croydon needs to provide by law – 20? 13? 12? 10?

The council includes Upper Norwood Library on its website as a 14th public library, even though that library has been run by a voluntary trust for almost a decade, with negligible input from Croydon. With Upper Norwood included in Croydon’s library provision total, it could make it easier to justify cuts elsewhere.

Under their secret plans for library closures 10 years ago, Perry and the Tories were looking to close at least four of Croydon’s wholly-run libraries. In 2020, when Labour realised it had crashed the council’s finances, they dusted off those plans and ran another costly consultation that suggested that five libraries might be closed, and the properties sold off to developers to bring in a few million to pay off the debts.

The problem for Perry is that the locations that have repeatedly come up on Croydon’s library closures lists have tended to be in the Tory-voting south of the borough. Bradmore Green, in Coulsdon, one of the borough’s smallest libraries, Shirley and Sanderstead libraries have been fixtures on every closure hit-list that the borough’s second-rate politicians have tried to push through for a decade.

Valuable real estate: Sanderstead Library

It’s less than a year since Perry was elected as the borough’s first executive Mayor. His promises to re-open Purley Pool in the south of the borough have already turned to dust. How those residents’ associations and library supporters who campaigned for a directly-elected mayor will react to the new Mayor closing their library and axing one of the few remaining amenities in their neighbourhood after less than a year in office does not bear thinking about.

And that geo-political problem facing Perry is very bad news for the library campaigners in South Norwood. The 1960s-built brutalist building, having survived an existential threat when Brick by Brick built a replacement library just round the corner, was then included on a Labour closure list in 2021, and it seems very likely to be on the doomed list once again, as Perry tries to make up the numbers with some sites in the north of the borough.

Broad Green Library was also considered for closure recently, and could be under threat once more in Mayor Perry’s plans, which are expected to be revealed in the new year, when recent cuts – closing a library for five days a week – are expected to be used to justify closures, due to reduced number of library visitors.

Read more: Two-days-a-week libraries latest step in ‘lingering demise’
Read more: Tory blame game over bankruptcy points finger at Westminster
Read more: ‘There is no solution in sight’ warns council’s finance chief
Read more: Council forced to issue 3rd bankruptcy notice in just two years

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1 Response to Library closures are on Mayor’s lists of cuts for New Year

  1. Sarah Bird says:

    Croydon Council has a statutory Duty to keep libraries open. To close a library or libraries could result in a Judicial review at the RCJ. Moreover the following Acts apply the Equality Act 2010 including the Public Sector Equality Duty, The Human Rights Act 1998 Localism Act 2011 and the Best Value Duty 2011 guidance
    The lockdowns shone very bright light on the importance of libraries from the very young to the elderly. Furthermore the current cold weather and cost of living crisis has resulted in many boroughs opening up their libraries as ” warm Spaces ” ie Merton council , spaces .Many boroughs libraries are open 6 days a week if not 7 days, in some libraries ie Lambeth,. Camden Bromley. All offer warm spaces .Croydon council cannot even open libraries for 6 days a week.
    Surely the priority for the Mayor and its councilors , is to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to “chase the money” and if so advised to instruct forensics accountants etc to recover it .No stone should be left unturned to do so. What is the Mayor’s position respect of chasing the money of the huge deficit? If the money was successfully recovered , the financial position of the Council and its very well paid officers may be brighter.

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