Croydon tears up the 112 years of library history

In their election promise, Croydon Conservatives promised to “Ensure that at a minimum we match Lambeth’s contribution to Upper Norwood Joint Library, continuing the Conservative commitment to the library” However, this promise now seems to be empty as Croydon start their consultation document that confirms that they have pulled out of their obligations under the 112 year old library agreement, and are considering cutting funding or closing the library.

In their 13 June 2011 document on library services Croydon stated that “Libraries make an important contribution to the Council’s corporate priorities of:

  •  Safer, stronger and more sustainable communities
  •  Promoting economic growth and prosperity
  •  Improving health and wellbeing
  •  Achieving better outcomes for children and young people
  •  Delivering high quality public services and improving value for money”

21000 members without a local library

Despite this, Croydon are looking at closing our library with its 21000 members who would need to travel for half an hour each way using public transport to get to the nearest alternative library service. In short, if Croydon close the library they will affect the opportunities, prosperity and cultural inheritance of local inhabitants and the wider community.

As Croydon reach the final hurdles of the Procurement process for Library services it is still unclear what will happen to Upper Norwood Library.

Independently run for 112 years and funded jointly by Croydon and Lambeth, Upper Norwood boasts unprecedented membership levels of 44% of the local community thanks to the tailored services it provides. Incredibly it does this at 50% of the cost per capita of most other London libraries and costs per member that are 7 times lower than Croydon’s own costs.

Outsourcing  Croydon’s libraries

Sarah Bashford, the councillor in charge of Croydon Libraries has publicly said “closure is not an option for us” and “We got the message loud and clear that these are important community facilities that must be kept open as a matter of priority.”  However, privately, Croydon have removed the funding for Upper Norwood which will effectively close this vibrant Victorian library which draws around 1000 people to the high street per day. Not only will this reduce literacy, employment prospects and social mobility but it will have a dramatic impact on footfall on the high street and the local economy.

An Independent library model that would reduce Council Tax

Why is it that Croydon are considering venture capitalists and other London Councils to run our library services and yet are unwilling to consider running them based on the Independent Upper Norwood Library model; a tried and tested way of improving efficiency, services and lowering costs. Croydon’s strategy allows another council or corporation to bank the benefits that should be secured in house and passed on to council tax payers.

Croydon seem to find Upper Norwood Library an embarrassment and are hoping it will go away quietly, however, the Library campaign is growing momentum and we have no such plans.