JUST SEVEN MONTHS should be enough time in which to get Upper Norwood joint library taken over by a community group, says Croydon council’s joint deputy leader Tim Pollard.
His comment came as Croydon council’s cabinet committee nodded through a set of proposals for the library at its meeting on Monday.
“It’s not generous – but it’s doable. “It’s a realistic time scale we can all work to” he said.
“What I would envisage would be the provision of a long lease. “That’s not in Croydon’s gift alone” he said – adding further weight to the increasing suspicion that Croydon’s Tories just haven’t thought this through.
(The report before the committee admitted that “The cost of redundancies for the full staff group would be in the region of £100,000 plus and in this circumstance, it is unlikely that support to share the cost would be given by Lambeth”)
Cllr Timothy Godfrey, Labour’s shadow spokesman on libraries, asked Cllr Pollard why he thought it acceptable to rely on Lambeth council to subsidise Croydon users of the service – Lambeth’s £170,000 versus Croydon’s £75,000.
Congratulating the cabinet for conducting “the most pointless survey with the most obvious results since the last consultation that proposed closing half the library network” Cllr Godfrey asked how the cabinet could explain why it continued to mislead the public over the library budget and the accusation of Upper Norwood being inefficient?
The report talked about a ‘slightly reduced service level’ by funding at £75,000 a year and made comparisons with previous years but did not reference the actual budget book figure – the total budget approved for 2012/13 including all cultural services – of £8.858 million.
“How can the cabinet make a decision without the full financial breakdown before it?” he asked.
Cllr John Wentworth (Lab Upper Norwood) welcoming the long term commitment to UNJL asked: “What evidence is there they could get this effectively done within seven months? “Its a bit of a tall order. “If you’re totally committed to having a community library in Upper Norwood I don’t think £75,000 would be sufficient.”
Cllr Pollard, referring to UNJL “and its apparent efficiency / inefficiency” said branch libraries in Croydon were run with half the number of staff at Upper Norwood. The unique way that UNJL was run had not gone through the same process as other libraries in London.
“Why doesn’t UNJL recognise it’s a branch library?” asked Cllr Pollard. “It’s broadly the same basket of services operated by our branch libraries – excluding Croydon central library. “Thornton Heath is very similar in terms of what it should be set up like.”
In his opening comments Cllr Pollard told the meeting: “The consultation report contains nothing that will surprise you – a great deal of people are very committed to having a library provision in Upper Norwood and want that taken forward by whatever means.
“In the light of that and a decision taken by Lambeth council the way forward was for a community group to run it.
Responding to Cllr Godfrey’s question as to why should Lambeth fund the library Cllr Pollard said Lambeth had made their announcement back in the summer. “It was far more sensible for us to look at it the other way round.”
In political point-scoring Labour opposition leader Cllr Tony Newman said an incoming Labour administration in 2014 would take the future of UNJL forward fairly and equally funded “and end these shenanigans once and for all.”
Responding to a Labour pledge about potential match funding the library with Lambeth Cllr Pollard said: “To say ‘we’ll do whatever they do’ is astounding – and it’s why Labour should never be given control in this town again.”