Croydon residents are being asked to choose which libraries in their borough should be shut down as the council attempts to make savings of £90 million over the next four years.
In a “consultation questionnaire” on the Croydon Council website, residents are advised how much the council would save by closing each proposed library – Sanderstead, Norbury, Shirley, Bradmore Green, Broad Green and South Norwood.
The savings made by the closure of each library are similar, ranging from £98,000 to £113,000. But the council say they could make savings of up to £619,000, indicating they may consider closing all of them. There is also a seventh option where locals can choose to “do nothing”.
The website says the council wishes to “seek your views on the proposed option prior to a decision being made” but points out that they may decide to take forward “none of these options”.
Members of Norbury Green Residents’ Association are against the proposed closure of their library and are holding a meeting at 7.30pm tonight in the Baptist Church on Semley Road.
Labour councillor for the Norbury ward Maggie Mansell will be speaking at the meeting. She thinks the decision to slash funding for libraries is essentially a “philosophical one” as the Tory-led Croydon Council makes “easy decisions that hit voluntary and cultural services”.
“I have particular concern for children who might not have a quiet room in their house for reading,” she said. “Or for the elderly who use the internet services at the library.”
She doesn’t believe the online consultation is an appropriate method for addressing the issue of public spending cuts: “It’s pitting one community against the other, and it’s weighted towards the articulate middle classes. Of course I’ll be campaigning to save Norbury library but the people in Broad Green – a poorer community – need their library too.”
Sasha Bashford, Croydon’s cabinet member for culture, defended the proposed closures. “We understand just how much these facilities are valued by local communities,” she said.
“However we have to look at this in the context of maintaining other essential services. There is the potential here for saving over £500,000 every year while still retaining a substantial library network.”
See also: Lewisham Libraries