What may not be clear to residents though is why campaigners would be claiming that many have been denied a say and that residents' comments have been disregarded. We are happy to set out our justification for this:
- Despite admitting that the responses to the Libraries consultation were predominantly from the users of the six libraries listed, the council are now happy to deny giving all Croydon residents an opportunity to have a say by consulting the users of the other seven libraries or agreeing to Labour's cross part commission on libraries.
- The council are equally happy to disregard Question 6 in the consultation, which allowed residents the opportunity to indicate they did not wish any changes to the library service by prioritising the ‘do nothing’ option over any closure of any library, which campaigners know was the preferred option of the majority.
- They are also happy to deny requests under Freedom of Information for a breakdown of the comments that informed the decision, claiming it would be too costly, which is surely an admission in itself that even the most rudimentary analysis of responses received has not been undertaken.
Library campaigners certainly did not get the message that residents wanted the council to find an alternate organisation to run the libraries.
By refusing to provide a breakdown of the 412 responses that Cllr Sara Bashford claims informed this decision it is very unclear how many well intentioned responses of adding a cafe or other money generating venture, suggestions of sponsorship, advertising and so forth have been used to indicate a vote for outsourcing to other organisations.
- Many residents are completely unaware of the 'market sounding' exercise as the council has denied residents clear information, not advertised the decision and has failed to make clear ALL Croydon libraries are included, not just the original six under threat.
The lack of openness, lack of clarity and lack of information naturally raises suspicions that, come September, the fate of Croydon libraries will be presented, fait accompli, denying residents any say on the matter.
- Despite assurances, Campaign groups and Residents' Associations continue to be denied any official update on the situation or any information since the decision to market test was taken on 13th June.