CROYDON COUNCIL could face a legal challenge over the future of Upper Norwood joint library after amazing scenes rarely – if ever – seen in an English council’s town hall last night (Friday).
No vote was actually taken by Croydon’s scrutiny and overview committee over the controversial decision by Croydon’s cabinet to give the library just £75,000 funding next year.
But it appeared that scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Steve Hollands had decided the cabinet decision was the right one – and that was that.
As the meeting neared its end after almost three hours of questions and debate Cllr Hollands repeatedly threatened to clear the public gallery following continued verbal criticism from library campaigners and supporters..
Cllr Hollands, withdrawing a Labour recommendation to ask the cabinet to give the library funding beyond two years and which he had initially agreed to support, announced: “The gallery has caused that. “The recommendation has been lost.”
He then announced: “The meeting is closed.” No vote of any sort had been taken.
Earlier in the meeting Cllr Hollands had declared of the library funding, somewhat bizarrely, “It’s a grant made by Croydon to an outside body. “In my view how much it costs to run Selsdon library, how much it costs to run Norbury library doesn’t come into it.”
Croydon council deputy leader Cllr Tim Pollard, who addressed the cabinet meeting where the decision to give the library just £75,000 was taken, said each of Croydon’s branch libraries operated on half the number of staff Upper Norwood had.
“No-one has said let’s start from the bottom up. “What matters is to do it top down . “That’s what we sought to do and how we arrived at the figure we did.”
Members of the public arriving at the meeting were given written submissions from the Upper Norwood Library Campaign, Crystal Palace Community Association and from the Mayor of Lambeth Cllr Steve Reed.
Cllr Read, in a letter dated yesterday (5th) said: “Lambeth notes that Croydon council’s decision comes after a series of previous attempts to cut funding while trying to avoid the public blame for doing so.
“We dispute Croydon’s claim that they were forced to pull out of the joint agreement because of alleged breaches by Lambeth and believe they made this claim simply to cover up their decision to cut funding.
“Labour maintains that the joint agreement was in fact breached by Croydon when they refused to appoint local ward councillors to the joint committee.
“We did not threaten to cut our funding in response – we merely asked that Croydon constitute the committee properly so that its work could continue.” The letter was co-signed by Cllr Sally Prentice, Lambeth’s cabinet member for culture.
- Campaigners were left shell-shocked in the wake of last night’s meeting and have probably woken up this morning (Saturday) wondering if it was all just a horrible dream. The bad news is: It wasn’t. There were a wealth of issues to come out of last night’s meeting . It’s 10.12 Saturday am so I haven’t had a chance to re-examine many of them, among which is the Conservative argument about how the council adds overheads to their branch libraries.(Although I wear glasses, I don’t write for the Daily Planet and my name ain’t Clark Kent.) Among those in the public gallery last night was one lady member of the library staff. How she felt during (and after) the meeting I can barely begin to imagine. Last night may have felt like the end. This morning it could just be the beginning. For a start there’s a by-election pending in Croydon North. As far as Upper Norwood folk are concerned the Conservative Parliamentary candidate won’t just be picking up the proverbial poison chalice. They will be picking up a chalice which is totally toxic…….