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Thursday, 30 May 2013

The REAL cost of Privatisation

Thanks to library campaigner Alan Wylie for the following link.  It certainly puts the risks of library privatisation in perspective.

Is this really a risk worth taking?

With Croydon Labour already threatening to cancel the JLIS deal and with Croydon Conservatives potentially only having a year left in control, the fall out from this deal on the taxpayer is potentially enormous.

This will affect us all - library user, library supporter or not.

Surely it is time to pause for thought or we may all be paying the price for an ill-considered decision for years to come.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Stop the privatisation of Public Libraries: Ealing Gazette readers say no to Library Privatisation

What Ealing residents said about the prospect of their libraries being privatised.

Read Stop the privatisation of Public Libraries: Ealing Gazette readers say no to Library Privatisa...:   According to a quick poll (see below) in the Ealing Gazette the overwhelming majority of people who read the paper have said no to Lib...

What would Croydon residents say, if asked?

New Addington Library - Seeing through the spin.

The latest news is that New Addington have a new library, according to Cllr Pollard. The "news" was produced in both local papers. The Croydon Advertiser article didn't even make the online listings but is reproduced below.

Strikingly similar? They would be, as the text of both is lifted, almost word for word, from the council's own press release.

So, now to the truth.

What New Addington actually has is a co-located facility, including a library over two floors.

This was achieved by drastically reducing the adult education space in the old CALAT (Adult learning) building, now renamed the New Addington Centre, and locating the library in a shared space, along with other services.

The children have lost access to a secure enclosed garden area off their part of the library in the old library.

The children's area may be larger in the new setting, if you disregard the loss of the garden space, but both articles fail to mention the close proximity to the IT suite used by adults who look on to the children's area, unlike the librarians who have no station in the children's area and are situated at the counter by the main revolving doors, out of sight and ear shot of the children's section.  In the old library the staff were stationed in the centre and were fully accessible to the children using the library.

There was just one PC in the children's section of the new facility when it opened last week and not all PCs were in working order, something this library has in common with many other Croydon libraries.

The article reports,

"There will be a new stock of books as well as DVDs and talking books.
Following a public consultation more historical, crime and adventure novels were purchased."
Indeed there are new books but considering, how low the stock was run down in the original library, it is little wonder.  Take a look.

The before:

A purpose built library with easy access, surrounded by green space, set well back from the road, with ample parking and next door to the leisure centre.

with row upon row of empty shelving before closure ...

Note the seating area at the end,  just one of many dotted around the old library building.

And, the new co-located facility

With some newly purchased books, but hardly brimming with books and, if you take a closer look, the selection is not that great either.

The new books stand out a mile, although many of the older tattier books have been weeded out.

 Front on presentation of books, propped up without support, to fill the space.

And still full rows of empty shelving as book stock is not sufficient to fill the new low level displays in the new facility, that replaced the heigh units in the old library.

And to show how limited the stock is, here is the choice of titles by local children's author, Jean Ure. One new, one old.  Hmmm....Which to pick?

The adult books are housed upstairs, accessed via a lift.

The biggest plus though was that the library was well-staffed and, as always the staff went out of their way to greet visitors, help library users find items they required and to offer help and information.

And quite what the selection of new books was based, who knows.  If it was the survey undertaken some serious questions need to be asked. The survey was apparently available online and hard copy yet the report produced on the outcome is rather scant on detail, particularly number of respondents.

You might like to note, for instance, that the largest number of responses received to any question posed was just 57 adults, who responded to the question regarding which services are important to them.

And, even more stark is the figure for those who responded on behalf of younger library users. Just FOUR, or perhaps just THREE who attend activities responded.

With such a small response rate the other details and percentages are almost meaningless.

Did the council really replenish the now dire book stock that has been run down across the whole network on the thoughts and views of no more than 50 or so individuals? You can access the survey document here.

Take a look and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Cllr Pollard doubts his own decision on #Croydon libraries

According to a press release that was only uploaded over the bank holiday weekend, Cllr Tim Pollard is calling his own decision in for scrutiny. 
"Yeah but, no but" decisions
The press release reads, 
"Savings and improvements to services will result from a fresh recommendation to appoint John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) as preferred bidder to run the council's library service.
The decision to go with the firm is now to be examined by Croydon Council's scrutiny committee. 
JLIS was originally chosen as the authority's preferred library-operating partner after its bid was judged to have been the best, based on an assessment of price and quality. However, the company made a request for a last-minute variation to its obligations concerning employer pension contributions. 
In line with EU contract tendering rules, the council therefore reopened bidding to other final-stage bidders. 
Two revised bids were subsequently received and carefully assessed. As a result, the council will secure the most economically advantageous terms while, at the same time, protecting the quality of services currently on offer. 
Councillor Tim Pollard, the cabinet member responsible for the service, will be ensuring that there is an examination by the cross-party scrutiny committee of how the council reached this decision. This will enable those with an interest in the project to fully understand how the evaluation team reached its conclusions.
The council undertook the tendering project after a public consultation exercise that came at a time when libraries across the country were coming under increasing threat of closures.
The move continues to be seen as the best means of ensuring there will be no risk of Croydon losing any of its libraries. 
Councillor Pollard said: "I'm very pleased that we've reached this point so quickly after the recent delay. My intention now is to ensure that the basis of my decision is examined fully, and that's why I'll be ensuring this matter is taken to our scrutiny committee. 
"This will give councillors from both parties the opportunity to understand how we've arrived at this point and what the benefits will be of entering into this new contract." 
Subject to the decision-making process reaching its conclusion, it is anticipated that the new service will start from the beginning of October."

Having raised questions as to  why Cllr Pollard was so shy to announce his decision, taken late before a bank holiday weekend at the start of Croydon school's half-term break,  with local residents also raising questions  and Croydon Labour threatening to cancel the contract should they gain power in 2014,  it seems even Cllr Pollard has lost his nerve and called his own decision in for scrutiny.

You really could not make it up! 

Cue yet another Private Eye article.

The scrutiny committee failed to take any notice of the body of evidence from the politically neutral Save Croydon Libraries Campaign last time and are likely to do so now, but if Cllr Cummings (who promised to get in touch, but failed to do so) wishes to take this evidence on board, or any other councillor sitting on scrutiny wishes to, please get in touch.  Email us at

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Questions posed on #Croydon libraries decision

The following correspondence from Sean Creighton, a resident from Norbury, has been emailed to all Croydon councillors.  It is reproduced here with his permission. Sean raises a number of issues.

Dear Councillor,
I have read the report on the outcome of the re-tendering of the Library Services and Cllr Pollard’s recommendation that the bid from Laing be accepted. 
Those of you who were at the Overview Committee in December may recall that I was given permission to speak to the Committee.
I have a number of questions which seem to me to justify a further meeting of the Oversight Committee to review the report and recommendation. 
1.   Why are the  overall sums of both bids not included – these cannot be regarded as commercially confidential?
2.   Given the Overview Committee decision on 5 December ‘That future commissioning reports should contain as much information in Part A of the agenda as possible in order to allow Members and the public to know whether the commissioning exercise meets the Council’s commissioning strategy’, why has this not be complied with in the report?
3.   Why is there no discussion on the implications of the Social Value Act on assessing the bids which is now in force and which the Council has a policy on?
4.   Why is there no discussion on the outcome of the pensions issue which caused the re-tendering?
5.   Have the union reps. been consulted on the TUPE process under the terms of the revised bid and on the implications for pensions?
6.   Why is there an option to extend the contract for 8 years beyond the initial 8 years?
7.   Is quarterly monitoring sufficient especially in the first year? Would it not be better to monitor monthly and then review frequency after the first 12 months?
8.   How much did the firm of Sharpe Pritchard cost to advise on the procurement process?
9.   How much has the total procurement process cost to-date?
10.  Should an apology be made to staff re-the use of the word ‘stuff’ in describing them? Obviously a typo but one that suggests a degree of contempt?
11.   Given the opposition of local people to outsourcing the Library Service, given the contract start date is thought to be October, and  given the local elections will be in May next year, what is the justification to proceed to outsource, when both political parties can set out their proposals in their manifestos and ask the voters to choose between the two set of proposals?
If you do decide to convene the Overview Committee in order to explore these and other questions, it would be helpful publicly if both bidders were invited to do short presentations and be questioned by Committee members in open session, and that they be asked before hand to agree to lift ‘commercial confidentiality’. The Library Service will need to be run in an open and transparent manner otherwise there will be continuing suspicion about how the service is being run. Therefore for example the monitoring reports should be seen by a Committee on public agendas. 
JLIS’s views (January 21012) on running libraries to the House of Commons Committee looking at Library closures can be seen on
Yours sincerely,
Sean Creighton 
Norbury resident

What are your thought on the matter? Please feel free to leave your comments. 

And please spread the word! 

Friday, 24 May 2013

#Croydon Labour seek views, including on libraries

A day long event was held at Ruskin House last Saturday, to hear views from Labour supporters to help formulate a manifesto for Croydon Labour party. 

Are Croydon Labour forging ahead with their co-operative plans for libraries? 

Not necessarily. 

It's pleasing to note that a more measured and consultative approach is being taken and Croydon Labour are interested in hearing all views, not just those of Labour supporters.  You can contribute to the manifesto survey here. There is also an event for women, open to all, tomorrow afternoon, entitled "What Do Croydon Women Want?".

We'd love to hear what you think too so please post your comments on this post so all are aware of your thoughts on libraries. If you would prefer to do this in private please email us at

Given that Croydon's Conservative Councillor, Tim Pollard,  has taken the decision to outsource our libraries to JLIS what Croydon Labour do now is even more important. The fact that this document containing the decision is buried deep on the council website, the absence of any public announcement and there being no mention of this decision in Croydon libraries  today is a fair indication that Croydon Council want this to go under the radar.

Our very own Bob
 Croydon Conservative's lead on libraries,
Cllr Tim Pollard

View the decision documents Cllr Pollard is so shy to share here

Does this seem transparent to you?

Shh! Laings win #Croydon Libraries

Buried on the council website is the following key decision document, dated 23rd May, outlining that Cllr Pollard has agreed to accept the refined final tender of JLIS to run Croydon Libraries, commencing 1st October 2013.

The contract is for 8 years with the possibility to extend for another 8 years.

This decision may be implemented after 1700 hrs on 31st May, unless referred to the Scrutiny and Strategic overview committee by 1300hrs on 31st May.

You can find the documents here:

Let's hope this is called in to scrutiny.

Why so shy Cllr Pollard? Buried on the council website and no press release to alert the public. Not a notice in a local library today. Released just before a bank holiday weekend at the start of half term.

It is sickening, but no different to the way the whole matter has been dealt with throughout.

Friday, 10 May 2013

#Croydon spin on Upper Norwood Library

A press release posted on Croydon Council's website today read, as follows. The spin  is breathtaking... We quote,

"The change to a community-run library service in Upper Norwood has moved a step closer with the completion of the transfer of library staff from Croydon's payroll to Lambeth's.

Lambeth will now take on responsibility for making the final arrangements to allow a community group to take over the library's day-to-day running.

Once the new arrangements are in place, it is anticipated that the library will be able to increase its opening hours, which were recently reduced to three days per week after several staff took voluntary redundancy.

Councillor Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, families and learning, said: "I'm pleased that the money we have provided to the library, and the hard work of Croydon's HR and finance teams, has allowed the process to move on to the next stage.

"We were disappointed that the library's staff recently chose to reduce opening times. However, we're certain that once they've reorganised their rotas they will be able to open for at least four days per week.""
Anyone like to remind Cllr Tim Pollard that it the withdrawal of funding by Croydon that has resulted in these redundancies and drastic cuts to opening hours before the Trust is even in place?

Show support for Upper Norwood Library Campaign by following them on Facebook, on Twitter @SaveUNLibrary and take a look at UNLC website at

Sunday, 5 May 2013

#Croydon Libraries - What's the agenda here?

The following has been sent to all on the email list and it will be put on Facebook. Please take a moment to read and make comment, whether you are from Croydon or further afield...

Steven Downes of Inside Croydon is, yet again, making wild accusations on Twitter - that a meeting on libraries has been called for and asks why has this not been done. Who called for this meeting?  Does anyone know?

Only one resident suggested a meeting to me but he genuinely thought we could hold it in a Croydon library. Clearly we can't.  Nobody who responded to the last email though, regarding this, thought there was any need to meet.

The leader of Croydon Labour promised a public meeting but I've heard nothing, despite following this up twice.

I am starting to think that this attack is political, as others have suggested,  as I spoke out with your thoughts regarding Labour's co-op model. No one understood where this came from and no one understood what it really meant and whether it offered a better alternative to JLIS (Laing).  The Campaign group was used by Croydon Labour to lend support to their push for co-op libraries. We are non-party political and had to speak out with what people told us.

Steven also wants an elected committee.  I deal with national library campaigners via The Library Campaign and Speak Up for Libraries. Few, if any, have formal groups or committees. Even groups who have defended libraries right through to Judicial Review have no formal organisation.  We do not take public funds. Does anyone want such a structure?

Thoughts please.....

As always, anyone can write for the blog. If you choose the anonymous or Name/URL option provided it is helpful to sign your post in some way.

Many thanks


Save Croydon Libraries Campaign
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