Campaigners warn South Norwood library faces closure ‘by stealth’

The library will stay open but the fight carries on. Pic Caleb Woods.

Campaigners fighting to save South Norwood Library have urged Croydon Council to rethink a series of proposals to keep it open, including part-time opening, branding the ideas as “closure by stealth”. 

Friends of South Norwood library (FOSNL) have spent the last few months campaigning to save the library on Lawrence road after it was put on a list of libraries that the council was considering closing in a bid to save funds.

On Monday, the council announced three alternative proposals to save the library, and further public consultation. While FOSNL welcomed the news that the library was not to close immediately, they described the three proposals, which either suggested a reduced opening timetable or staffing by volunteers, as “closure by stealth”.

Writing on their blog, they said: “So the proposed reduction in service is really closure by stealth. The £500k in savings needed will be coming directly from the staffing budget – we urge Croydon Council to rethink. This small saving will lead to huge social costs later down the line.” 

In the announcement, the council also rejected FOSNL’s key proposal – that of the group taking over running the building in exchange for the council dealing with the library itself. Instead, the council have suggested a second stage of public consultations and have presented three possible solutions for keeping the library in use.

In their blog post, FOSNL said: “It hinged on the council working with us on the proposal, and sad to say they did not. From their report, the reason they highlight is that it would not deliver the full £500k per year saving – because it wouldn’t reduce staffing.”

Two out of three options proposed suggest a reduction of staff which will only have the library manned for Tuesdays and Fridays. The first option suggested a reduction in staff and on the days the library will not have staff they will put in place Open+ Technology, a way in which you can enter the library using a pin. This will mean that children under 16 will not be able to attend without an adult, as there will be no one there to supervise them. 

The second option that has suggested a reduction in staff states that instead of Open+ Technology allowing members of the public to use the unstaffed library, they will leave it to volunteers to supervise the library on days it will not be staffed.

This option was also not well received by the campaign group. They wrote in their blog: “Our community is one of hard-working families who do not have the time to run the library for the council.”

The third option included outsourcing the running of the library to an external company. FOSNL said this would be unworkable, writing in their blog: “Any company taking over the libraries would need to deliver the £500k savings to the council and make a profit for themselves, and even social enterprises like GLL have instituted zero hours and unsocial hours contracts on library staff.”

Although FOSNL have said that they are relived the library will not close for now, they said they would not be fobbed off with two days of staffed service per week. 

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