UPPER NORWOOD JOINT LIBRARY will only open for three days a week from Monday April 29th – and closing for lunch on two of them.
Five staff will be losing their jobs – a reduction from the current complement of 10 – four other vacant positions having remained unfilled.
The 40 per cent-plus cut in opening times is a direct result of Croydon’s Conservative councillors voting to pull out of the 112 year old historic agreement between Croydon and Lambeth councils running the country’s only independent public library in the wake of their hotly-disputed claim that only cabinet members could sit on the library joint committee.
Notices were put up in the library yesterday (Monday) announcing the changes.
The library will now be closed on Mondays and Fridays and only open on Tuesdays (10 am to 7pm) and Thursday (9am to 7pm) but closing for lunch between 1pm and 2pm on both days. The library will also be open on Saturdays from 9am to 5pm.
The notices add: “The staff at UNJL would hope that we will be able to increase these opening hours in the near future.
“However, this is dependent on increasing the staff hours and at this time it is unclear whether these additional costs can be covered by the budget.”
The newly announced opening times come amid suggestions that pressure is being put on the library staff to open for longer hours – mainly by Lambeth and to a lesser degree by Croydon.
The latest cuts are bound to provoke an even bigger uproar than previous protests – a far cry from the last council elections when Conservative candidates produced their – now infamous – leaflet which declared: “Upper Norwood library – only the Conservatives care’.
REACTIONS SO FAR:
ROBBIE Gibson, on behalf of the library’s interim trustees, said: “Many of you will have seen the sad impact of Croydon Council’s drastic cut to our library’s budget in the announcement by library staff of amended hours and staff cuts.
“The Upper Norwood Library Trust is not yet running the library and so not in a position to make decisions on opening hours.
“The Trust is meeting with both councils next week and is not yet aware of any permanent decisions re the opening hours having been taken by Lambeth Council, the incoming caretaker body.
“The library is in a transition phase. The Trust appreciates the importance of opening hours to suit the community and will seek to bring about the best possible solution within the reduced funding envelope.”
GIPSY HILL ward Cllr Matthew Bennett (Lab), writing on the ward’s website, said: “This is terrible news – but could have been much worse.
“Three years ago the Tories in Croydon announced that they wanted to cut the funding, close the library and had valuers ready to price the building for sale to private developers.
“It’s only because of the strength of feeling in the community and a strong local campaign that the library can remain open at all.
“The library is now overwhelmingly funded by Lambeth council despite less than a third of the library’s users being Lambeth residents.
“Lambeth are currently working with the library staff to help get the library through and keep it open for local people at this difficult time.
“Once the situation is much more stable then the council and we as local councillors want to work with the local community to make the community trust model a possibility.
“We want to see the library building owned by local people so that never again can the community be threatened by an uninterested Tory council who want to sell off the building.
“Setting a trust up is going to take time – and we want to make sure that it’s as open and inclusive a process as possible so that the end result truly reflects the balance of local interest in the library and maintains a strong link to the councils who provide the money to maintain a proper library service in the heart of Crystal Palace.”
CROYDON council’s Labour opposition spokesman on libraries Cllr Timothy Godfrey, reiterating their promise to match fund Lambeth council’s grant to the library if they retake control of Croydon town hall next year, said “This is a clear and simple sign that you get what you pay for.
“Croydon council is expecting Lambeth council to subsidise its residents’ use of this library.
“Croydon Tories have broken their 2010 election pledge that the Upper Norwood library would be safe in their hands.”
UPPER Norwood Improvement Team (UNIT) chairman George Filbey said: The library has had to reduce its service to the people of Crystal Palace areas because of the drastic cuts in funding from the two councils who funded it, Lambeth and Croydon, especially Croydon council.
“Eventually the newly formed trust that will run the library will be able to obtain funds available in the area as well as the reduced funding from the councils.
“When all this is up and running the library should open again fully regardless of the policies of the local councils. “In the meantime the library is bravely tackling the impositions placed on it by the local authorities and I am sure the people of Crystal Palace will never let it die.”
AND A CRYSTAL Palace and Norwood Chamber of Commerce spokesman said: “Thank god for the support of locals who rallied and created the library trust otherwise the library would be closed for seven days a week.”