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Sunday, 29 January 2012

More Croydon spin - Upper Norwood Joint Library

The following post appeared on the Croydon Advertiser website early Saturday 28th January, reproduced below.

The article states that Croydon and Lambeth Councils have met to discuss the future of Upper Norwood Library. The future of the 111-year-old library, in Westow Hill, has been cast into doubt after Croydon terminated its joint agreement with Lambeth. It points out that a packed public meeting was held in November 2011 as a result of this, and that Lambeth Cllr Florence Nosegbe explained to all at this meeting, that,
"...she had been trying to get Croydon around the table, but to no avail."

The Croydon Advertiser goes on to state that,
"Now both parties have met and talks have been described as "positive".
But described as positive by whom? Certainly a strange journalistic style to employ. No direct quote from Lambeth's Cllr Nosegbe nor any comment from the very active campaign group for this library. Why could this be?

The only offering from the Advertiser, something that will not come as any great surprise to most Croydon residents, is a quote from Croydon's Councillor Bashford, dubbed "Book Token" Bashford by the sometimes acerbic but always astute blog, Inside Croydon, which has covered the Croydon libraries in multiple posts such as Croydon's timeline of deceit and the secret meetings and outsourcing plans for our libraries.
The Advertiser quotes Cllr Bashford,
"The latest update is there have been meetings in the second week of January between Lambeth and Croydon. We've talked about how we can move forward and it was very constructive. We haven't said we are closing the library, what we said is we can't work with Lambeth in the way we have in the past."

Many welcomed the news and saw it as a cause for celebration, given the dismal history of this much loved, well used, efficient library, jointly funded by Lambeth and Croydon Councils. You can find the full sorry story on the Upper Norwood Library Campaign site but here is just a snippet of the problems in recent years. A quick look at this and it can't  help escape the reader's notice that Croydon Cllr Eddy Arram is again referred to in less than favourable terms here, but we've covered the antics of this councillor on libraries before here and more recently here, where he seems to have earner the title of "gaff-prone Eddy".

But the following questions need to be posed:

Why only a comment from Croydon's Cllr Bashford and not from her Lambeth counterpart, Cllr Florence Nosegbe?

Why no comment from any one of the hundreds of people who turned out in force for the public meeting in November?

And perhaps, most curious of all, why refer to a meeting held two weeks prior?  Why the delay?  And why no mention of the public meeting held only the night before?

Could it be that this was a ploy to deflect from the focus of campaigners, holding an Emergency General meeting, only the night before this article was posted? Wouldn't this have afforded the Croydon Advertiser the ideal opportunity to assess views for themselves directly and to get real quotes from actual people involved on all sides? Wouldn't any decent journalist seek to get all views on the situation and attribute comments to real people, rather than just referring vaguely to,
".. talks being described as "positive". "
Well, we'd like to draw attention to the following statements made, apparently not available to the thorough team at the Croydon Advertiser but found by many residents and library campaigners within hours of their release. We think they shed a slightly less rosy hue on the situation and help to explain the reason for the carefully chosen words of Croydon Council.

 From Cllr Steve Reed, the Leader of Lambeth Council on Friday 27th January, 2012
"Lambeth Council supports the Upper Norwood Joint Library and we want to see it continue serving the local community into the future. We oppose the Croydon Conservatives’ attempt to close it down by withdrawing their share of the funding. Croydon’s claims that there has been any breach of the Agreement by Lambeth is untrue and is a smokescreen behind which they hope to hide their plans to close the library down. By cutting funding without a year’s notice we believe it is Croydon who have breached their legal obligations and the joint agreement.
Lambeth commits to maintaining our share of funding for this library. We call on Croydon to withdraw their immediate closure plans, withdraw their plans to sell off the building, and sit down with us and community representatives to agree a way forward. We would like to explore the idea of setting up a community trust to own and run the Upper Norwood Joint Library with funding from both Lambeth and Croydon councils. We believe that will safeguard the library from future attempts by Croydon Council to close this library.”

This was accompanied by a statement from Croydon Labour Leader Cllr Tony Newman, 

“Can I thank Steve and his team in Lambeth for standing alongside the community and Croydon's Labour Councillors in fighting Croydon Conservatives clear attempt to close the Upper Norwood Library, a community trust would secure the libraries long term future and remove the threat of Councillor Fisher ever holding a gun to the libraries head again."

Then there was this statement Croydon Cllr Sara Bashford gave to the Upper Norwood Library Campaign for the meeting held on Friday evening,

‎"I am pleased that discussions are now taking place between Croydon and Lambeth. We are discussing possible ways forward for the future of UNJL. Croydon's position on entering a new agreement has not changed but we hope the discussions will allow Lambeth to develop new management arrangements for the Library, in line with the report on libraries produced by their Commission recently. However, these discussions are on-going, so there is, as yet, no outcome to report."

And one for her counterpart on Lambeth Council, Cllr Florence Nosegbe,

"Unfortunately the discussions with LB Croydon have not progressed as far as I would have liked – as you can appreciate a number of Officers and Councillors were away over the Christmas period.

I know that a number of residents are worried about the future of the Library, however Lambeth’s position as I started when I attended the meeting in November 2011, has not changed. We still remain committed to the library and working with the campaign group, local residents and councillors to secure its future."

Perhaps Cllr Bashford and the Croydon's Conservative group are particularly keen to send out vaguely worded positive messages after Inside Croydon exposed the shocking approaches Croydon have been employing. You can read the full text of the Inside Croydon post here, including the text of a letter from Jon Rouse, Croydon's CEO, to his counterpart in Lambeth, outlining Croydon's firm decision, unreasonable time frames and pleas for discretion - which many interpret as pleas for secrecy. 

And let's not forget the actual words of Cllr Bashford in her statement (our emphasis), 
"Croydon's position on entering a new agreement has not changed but we hope the discussions will allow Lambeth to develop new management arrangements for the Library, in line with the report on libraries produced by their Commission recently. However, these discussions are on-going, so there is, as yet, no outcome to report."
Seems pretty clear what the real situation is when you balance the actual words of Cllr Bashford with those of  all the others and pit them against this flimsy article by the Croydon Advertiser, don't you think?
Image courtesy of Phil Bradley at


  1. When Croydon say that they can't work with Lambeth in the way that they have in the past, does this actually mean they have withdrawn funding (as it doesn't dovetail with their outsourcing of all library services). Could it be that Upper Norwood Library is an embarrassment to Croydon as it shows them what an effective library should look like!

    Croydon library costs £8m plus p.a and costs every resident double what Upper Norwood Library costs. If Croydon took Lambeths lead and modelled future library services upon the Upper Norwood library model then they could save up to £4m. Instead Croydon are dogmatically pursuing privatisation, without considering a best practice in-house option, which will end up locking Croydon into costly and inflexible contract. In the interests of Croydon and Upper Norwood residents, funding for UN liobrary should be maintained and Croydon should be made to consider all options (including an in house option based on the Upper Norwood model)

  2. We would appreciate it if contributors using the 'anonymous' option signed their posts in some way or just add their name under the name/url option.

    Our understanding is that Croydon have withdrawn from the joint agreement and there will be no further funding available from Croydon. The three options given to Lambeth all absolved Croydon of any management or financial responsibilities and we see nothing in this newspaper article or Cllr Bashford's statement to indicate that view has changed. Do you?

  3. In Croydon's library procurement minutes the costs seem to only include the Front Office Library costs of £4.5m and not the already outsourced back office IT and facilities costing a further £4m. Why are these costs seemingly ringfenced?

    Why also do 3 other councils feel that they can run our libraries more efficiently than Croydon. Croydon in minute 8.3 Options, say "There is the option of continuing with the current service; however this would be unlikely to produce further significant efficiencies" Why can Merton and Upper Norwood cut costs in half but Croydon can't... is it a lack of desire or just a dogmatic need to outsource?

    1. We understand back office is where the greatest savings can be made. Croydon were implored to look at reducing this, rather than outsourcing. If they can't run the service efficiently themselves how will they be capable of ensuring others will? And any profit from our library service will go elsewhere. All in all a very unsatisfactory state of affairs!

      Please note: Please feel free to comment but "sign" your posts in some way please. If you'd prefer not to use your name you can indicate area, use a pseudonym, etc. Thanks.