By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter
The full closure of five Croydon libraries has been ruled out but campaigners are concerned alternatives could lead to a ‘postcode lottery’ in the borough.
As the council faces a financial crisis it originally proposed closing South Norwood, Broad Green, Bradmore Green, Sanderstead and Shirley libraries to save just £500,000 a year.
But now the council says it has ruled out these closures and is consulting on alternatives.
One of the reasons for this is that closing the five libraries would not make savings of 15 per cent of the operating budget, equivalent to £511,100.
An initial consultation also showed that residents did not want to see their local libraries closed for good.
Another issue with South Norwood Library was that it has still not moved into a brand new home in Station Road due to the building not being ready.
It is in the ground floor of Brick by Brick development, Pump House.
This move will now go ahead and the council says it will use money from ring-fenced Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) money to make the library usable.
There will be three options for the future of the five libraries which residents can have their say on in June.
All libraries remain in council control but open two fewer days a week, except the central library that would open five days per week.
The council works in partnership with an organisation to run all 13 libraries, which could include a charity or social enterprise.
Keep eight libraries in council control and open two fewer days a week and lease the other five to community groups with the council providing some staff two days a week.
But the campaign group, Save Croydon Libraries, says the decision has been rushed.
Elizabeth Ash from the group said: “They have come to the realisation that closing these five libraries wouldn’t actually achieve the savings, that is really indicative of how poorly it’s been thought out.
“The decisions are being made too quickly, I am really not convinced they have listened to what residents have said.”
And Mrs Ash thinks that not having trained library workers would affect the service provided.
“I think it is disastrous,” she said. “I think it would lead to a huge drop off in use. The council has a duty to provide a library service.
“It shouldn’t be down to a postcode lottery, if you have the means you can think, I’ll go to a proper library elsewhere rather than a book swap run by a person or group that isn’t fully trained.”
Councillor Oliver Lewis, the council’s cabinet member for culture and regeneration, said: “These have been difficult times for Croydon Council and our libraries have been under threat.
“I am delighted to have also secured capital investment in our service including in the five libraries that were under threat. This now means that we can fit out the new South Norwood Library building. We can also expand Open Plus technology giving our residents more options and flexibility to access the service.
“The second phase of the consultation will now focus on how we run the service going forward and deliver the savings we are committed to.”
Consultation on the latest proposals will last until July 26 and can be found here: https://getinvolved.croydon.gov.uk/project/695
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.