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Thursday, 20 December 2012

#Croydon - Heading for Judicial Review

Despite a cloak of secrecy,  it's clear that Laing (JLLS) were the most likely bidder to be awarded the contract for Croydon Libraries. Many saw this as a done deal. Given the details and terms of the contract now known it would be hard to argue that Croydon didn't pave the way for the JLIS bid.

In an extraordinary turn of events, a long list of Conservative councillors called-in the decision to award the libraries contract to Laings; the very same decision they had enthusiastically voted through, en bloc, as a party.  It is worth remembering that the ruling Conservative party in Croydon has stood firm in regard to other key decisions, such as to support the incinerator plans, despite pre-election promises of no incinerator "on or near our borders". For the party to split in order for so many to call the libraries decision into question, worthy of referral to scrutiny, is a clear victory for all those who have spoken up in number throughout the process and surely indicates a deep unrest within the party regarding the decision taken.

Where now?
The process is now less straight forward and likely to take some time as scrutiny applied extra conditions to the contract which will need to be negotiated with Laing and there may be other delays to come, should any of the bidders wish to challenge the process. Croydon may also come under fire for leaving it so late, giving them littel time as they want the contract in place for April 2013.  They would need to allow for consultation with staff, TUPE arrangements as well as any further negotiations with Laing, which places Croydon in a very weak position. Residents have been advised that the decision needs to go back to the full council in any case, which won't be until January now.

The Vice Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Jason Cummings (Cons) made attempts to hear from the Save Libraries Campaign group, who represent the views of residents across the borough, given the Chair's complete absence of openness to entertain this.  We wonder what the Chair, Cllr Steve Holland (Cons), wanted to avoid being tabled. All that Elizabeth Ash, speaking on behalf of the Campaign, asked for was just two minutes of the committee's time, without right to reply. This was denied. Given the poor calibre of questioning put forward by councillors (something we are happy to cover in another post) it was clearly ill-advised to deny the committee hearing these points which would have provided pertinent information not yet tabled for consideration. And, despite Cllr Cummings seemingly genuine undertaking to make sure the campaign view was heard and put forward for consideration before any decision was passed, he has made no contact in over two weeks since the meeting at which he made this promise. The Campaign leaves it to you to form your own opinion.

Judicial Review is on the cards
The fight is not over and we may now need to go to judicial review. We cannot do this until the final announcement is made but this does not stop us considering all options before this time. We would not proceed unless we had a very good case but from all the Campaign knows we have a case on several key points. The scrutiny process just adds weight to the case. We need a group of residents to take this forward to explore further and the Campaign is delighted that, despite being the week running up to Christmas that so many residents have replied so far in support of standing up to speak up for our libraries and to challenge the decision.

Support for a judicial review has also been indicated by Croydon Labour and now UKIP. The Campaign remains open to hearing from other parties to push this challenge.  We would remind all that the Campaign is non party political but we will accept any help offered as we have clear evidence that outsourcing is not what residents want and that what Laing have to offer on libraries is far from what residents of Croydon value!

Please get in touch if you can help.  We need people to stand up to be counted or we will lose the library service we so value. It is clearly not too late to rebuild what we have lost but we must not let it deteriorate any further. Check out what Laing have done to Hounslow Libraries if you are in any doubt here and here.

What we know, thanks to the persistent questioning of several Labour councillors, is that the pay and conditions of our remaining staff will be maintained, as required by law, but there is no commitment to keep the many staff we understand are on short term contract, so new staff can be taken on with lesser qualifications, pay and conditions. Cllr Steve O'Connell made clear that Croydon council do not sign up to the London Living Wage so would not even entertain a question on this.

The terms of the contract are to maintain the existing service - a service that has been run into the ground since before the consultation began, with huge loss of staff, greatly depleted book stock, and lack of service in our libraries as staff are often ill-equipped and untrained.  We've a clear record of this, thanks to the vigilance of library users across the borough. The strain this has placed on our original staff, and on those new, trying to fulfil the role, must be immense. Please show them your support.

Many residents are still unaware of the plans. Thanks to all who have sent a constant stream of information to the Campaign in the form of observations, comments and photos.

We need to mobilise.  Spread the word. Please also get in touch.

Thank you!

Save Croydon Libraries Campaign
Follow us on twitter @SaveCroydonLibs
Join us on facebook Save Croydon Libraries group

Let's stop the erosion of our library service! Keep your comments and evidence coming in!

Not coping, across the borough, given staff cull
Lack of staff; lack of volunteers... oh dear!
Take your pick. The choice is limited though!
Clear shelves makes dusting easier but limits library user choice. What is the priority in  Croydon? Hmmm...
And yet we come back, time and time again, to say we love our libraries and NEED our libraries. ~What is it that Croydon do not get?
*pregnant pause*


@CroydonGreens have added their weight to the support for Croydon libraries. So all local parties are on board to fight that this is a wrong decision, including those within the ruling Conservative party.

Interesting times....Watch this space!

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