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Thursday 14 March 2013

Shh! Croydon Labour calls meeting over Libraries

The following is being circulated to residents and has been passed to Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.  It clearly demonstrates that not only have the Conservative administration bungled the procurement process to outsource libraries, which will have cost Croydon dearly, but that Croydon Labour do not know what they are doing and emulate the Conservatives by acting without a mandate.

When will those elected to serve realise they have a duty to the residents of Croydon to consult and listen?

Residents are being told that,
"Following the statement made by the Cabinet Member Cllr Tim Pollard at the last Council Meeting that John Laing had withdrawn as the likely contenders to take over all the Libraries in Croydon, and that the Croydon Council would be re-tendering....."
My comment: 
BUT Laing have not withdrawn. They tried to change the terms late on in the process around pension entitlements for staff.  Laing are experienced at procurement and many suspect they took advantage of the poor handling by Croydon.  As Croydon and Laing have long-standing business dealings they waited till the last moment to pull this detail, hoping Croydon Conservative administration would accept the terms. 

The collapse of the process means, under EU procurement law, all the short listed bidders have to be invited to resubmit their bid for the contract and can alter any aspect of this that they choose.  

GLL and Laings are the only two understood to be entering into this process. Given the apparent shoddy treatment of GLL it is surprising that they are willing to work with Croydon

In the meantime,

  •  the Croydon library staff have an uncertain future hanging over them as we go back to the drawing board.
  • Croydon Council is undertaking the redecoration of libraries out of this year's budget, leaving staff shunted across the borough while libraries close. 
  • The redecoration should have included an IT upgrade but this is on hold as we go back to the drawing board, meaning more disruption to services and more expense as this will need to be undertaken at another point in the future.

The communication continues to detail that an extraordinary meeting is being called by the Croydon Labour group for Monday 18th March at the Town Hall 6.30pm.  The aim outlined is to have a proper discussion on the plans to privatise all the Libraries in Croydon.

My comment:
BUT no-one has thought to communicate this to the Save Croydon Libraries Campaigners.

Given that this has only been received late on Thursday evening it hardly gives any time to prepare for this meeting or for interested residents to make arrangements to attend.

The wording of the motion is as follows,
"We herby [sic] call an Emergency Council Meeting  to discuss the following Motion: 
This Council regrets the incompetence of Councillor Fisher's administration over the privatisation of Libraries to John Laing. It is vital that Croydon Council must be efficient in delivery of front line services. We agree to match the savings proposed in the John Laing deal by forming a cross party working group to deliver a Co-operative model based on devolved budgets and responsibilities: staff being employed directly through the Council; removal of senior management layers; and ending the practice of expensive outsourced contracts for IT and facilities management" 
My comment: 
Whilst the Upper Norwood Library, jointly-run until recently by Croydon and Lambeth, are now going down the Co-operative model route, this has not been discussed or consulted upon in relation to the 13 Croydon libraries.

Like all library campaign groups, Save Croydon Libraries Campaign has supported Save Upper Norwood Library Campaign in the decisions they have taken for their community.  Campaigners in Lambeth and elsewhere, where Co-operative models are being proposed, are open to the idea but wary of the potential of such a model to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service.

The big difference is that these communities were consulted. Croydon was not!

No one in the consultation process asked for a Co-operative model and Labour did not choose to consult residents on such a proposal. 

Whilst huge potential savings on back office costs have been identified, including the exorbitant IT contract, heavily loaded on the libraries budget, no one has called for management layers within libraries to be stripped.  Given the cull of staff undertaken it is difficult to see what this would achieve, other than more closed libraries when a single member of staff calls in ill.  We've been there.  Let's not repeat it! 

I have to say that calling a meeting at such short notice, on a model not yet explained, explored or consulted upon, places Labour in a very weak position indeed. But then I hear regularly that Labour are not listening and are not interested in representing parts of the borough, such as the South. 

Croydon residents have fought long and hard to defend their libraries.  They do not want to run them!

The clear message is that we value a professionally run service. This includes not only our qualified librarians but the experienced and knowledgeable library staff - many having worked their way up to management positions through dedication and commitment and others just offering a brilliant service as a long standing member of the team, including our Saturday staff - many of whom have been forced to move on when hours were cut.

Croydon Labour are doing a disservice to the Croydon community by pushing this politically loaded statement through for debate.

Let's see real engagement.  

Let's see those elected to serve really listening to the residents.

Let's see all parties working for a better future for Croydon rather than the petty point scoring to which we are now so accustomed.

Croydon deserves better!

Post submitted by:
Elizabeth Ash, Croydon Libraries Campaigner haste, given no time to consult further because of the lack of notice.

I'd love to hear what other residents think of this proposal.


  1. Shirley Burnham15 March 2013 at 09:41

    Those following the saga of Croydon's libraries from a distance share your bafflement.

    It beggars belief that the opportunity that has arisen is not one that has motivated the Council to take another look at delivering the Library Service through the democratically accountable public sector - not least because it is argued in 'The Guardian' article, below, that there is *a very strong value-for-money case* for in-sourcing services.

    The Guardian : 25th February
    A new vision for in-sourced and effective public services

    But political manoeuvring rather than the *public good* seems to be the focus in Croydon.

    Let's be clear: for-profit companies, whether it is John Laing or any other, exist to make profit. Insisting on imposing the outsourcing of a service, whose purpose is not to be a *business* but a service well run and accessible to all, does Croydon residents, and library users in particular, a huge disservice.

    Why not use the setbacks that have arisen in the tendering process for a total rethink of library strategy, Croydon? You would be admired within and beyond your boundaries for showing such humility and sense.

  2. Oh dear where's the openess and desire to consult gone? and from the feedback that i've got from people on the ground in Lambeth the 'co-op' model is just another form of 'outsourcing' with no real consultation or accountability even though it tarts itself up as something more palatable. Come on Labour grow some balls (not Ed!) and kick these divestment schemes in to touch!

  3. Am I missing something here? I thought Labour said they would tear up the outsourcing contract when they get back into power, so I assumed this meant that the running of the libraries would go back to where they are now - being run by the Council! So where has this co-op model suddenly come from? As had been said before neither co-op models or outsourcing to a company such as JL or GLL has ever been mandated by residents! What a complete mess! Janet Stollery

  4. Thanks for your comment. That's exactly what other residents are saying. Do read the other posts...It gets worse! We now have silent campaigners working behind the scenes to support this proposal....apparently.

    No one I've spoken to believes this!