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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Increasing the cost of running libraries - So #Croydon

It is shameful that £250K was wasted on a procurement process that sees Croydon awarding the libraries contract to JLIS, a subsidiary of John Laing, but the farce does not end there.

The procurement process was sold to residents as a way of saving money, by working with Wandsworth, therefore offering economies of scale. Laing  is  a company that is already heavily involved in Croydon, including the building of the shiny new council HQ, which Croydon council  insists is being built at nil cost, and a £450m regeneration scheme.  The truth is exposed as various deals are already coming unstuck. If you want further details Inside Croydon covers this issue extensively.

But Wandsworth appointed GLL, a not-for-profit company with some expertise in running libraries, employing experienced librarians to oversee the provision.  They were chosen as they offered 'best value for money' - their tender representing not only the lowest price of the short-listed bidders but also realising the highest score in evaluations.

As Cllr Timothy Godfrey points out, the deal stuck in Croydon will not realise any saving. In fact it will cost Croydon more than offering the contract to GLL or continuing the management of libraries in house, to the tune of a cool £4m over the life of the contract and no economies of scale realised.

The shocking figures for Croydon libraries were released in the recent CIPFA data, where back office costs, long identified as a huge barrier to the efficient and cost-effective running of Croydon libraries, are exposed as completely out of all proportion with any well run library service. This is no news to campaigners or the Labour opposition in Croydon as this was highlighted early on as a reason to reconsider the procurement process not only by Labour's Godfrey but by Tim Coates, who attended a shadow cabinet meeting and presented the stark facts to all in attendance, including the then Conservative lead on libraries Cllr 'Booktoken' Bashford.

Given this, it is unbelievable that Croydon would plump for a more expensive deal with Laing than to tackle the problem that they created in the efficient running of Croydon libraries or opting to let GLL run services, jointly with Wandsworth, at least excusable as it is cheaper and better than what is already on offer.

Thanks to Private Eye for covering the story - Issue 1331, available in all good newsagents.
Private Eye - page 28 of Issue 1331 - 11 January - 24 Jan. 2013

So we have a greatly reduced spec, no economies of scale and a hugely inflated cost to Croydon, in order to outsource our libraries to Laings (JLIS). 

You really couldn't make it up!

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