July 2021: Croydon Library Consultation Phase 2 – PWRA Recommendation to Members

July 2021: Croydon Libraries Consultation – Phase 2

PWRA Members may recall that earlier in the year Croydon went out to residents to consult on the future of our Borough’s libraries, and in particular the closure of a number of libraries. The background to this proposed action is the £500,000 that needs to be saved from the library budget as a result of Croydon’s bankruptcy. This first consultation showed overwhelmingly support from across the Borough for keeping all libraries open. Thank you to members who responded to the first consultation as we feel sure that the overwhelming public support for the Borough’s Libraries resulted in the removal of the closure options.

As a result of the outcome of the first consultation Croydon are undertaking a second consultation asking residence which of three options, for keeping all libraries open yet still achieving the £500,000 saving, we would prefer. In summary these three options are:

  1. Reduce all library opening hours, except the Central Library, by 21%. We believe this means that libraries would be open 2 days a week.
  2. Outsource all libraries / library services.
  3. A hybrid option with 8 libraries continuing to be run by the council and open 2 days a week, and the remaining libraries run by (as yet unidentified) community groups.

This second consultation closes at midnight on Saturday 26th July 2021 and one can participate in a number of ways:

  • Going online at https://getinvolved.croydon.gov.uk/project/695 and selecting the ‘Take part’ icon of the Libraries Consultation Phase 2 – Survey box at the bottom left hand side of the page.
  • Requesting a paper copy from any Croydon Library or by emailing librariesconsultation@croydon.gov.uk. This address may also be used to request consultation material in a different format or language.
  • Telephoning 020 7884 5159 and leaving a message including your contact details.
  • In person at one of the ‘drop in’ sessions that the Council have organised as follows (that at Purley Library is highlighted):

The PWRA Committee has considered the proposed options. Whilst we do not find any of the options acceptable per se, being pragmatic, and as we believe that one of these options will be selected by the current Council administration, we consider Option 1 as the ‘least worst’ option. We urge you, our members, to participate in the process and suggest you include the following italicized issues, in addition to your own comments, when completing the consultation survey.

Proposed Option 1: reduce library service hours by 21% across the borough. Under this option, all libraries remain Council-run but libraries would be open on fewer days per week. We believe that for most Libraries this will result in them only opening for two days per week.

Suggested Issues for Consideration and Questions

There is evidence in other public service scenarios that service reduction, whilst reducing costs also reduces use due to unattractiveness. This results in further lack of use of the facilities driving further pressure to reduce costs, which can only be achieved by further reductions in opening hours, and ultimately complete closure. This closure by stealth option would not be acceptable, and acceptance of Option 1 should not be taken as acquiescence to further reductions in Library services across the Borough..

Whilst the PWRA Committee do not actively support this option we do consider it the ‘least worst’ option.

Proposed Option 2: the council would work in partnership with an organisation to outsource the management of all its 13 libraries.

Suggested Issues for Consideration and Questions

  • A previous experiment of externalising the library service to the private company, Carillion failed not only because the company was badly managed resulting in its bankruptcy but also because the current review of the Borough’s libraries has exposed that such things as the maintenance of library buildings, has not carried out. This has resulted in a backlog of work being required and added a detrimental cost in the evaluation of maintaining the service.
  • The Council must demonstrate that if this option is to be considered: the maintenance of the service and the building will be assured in the contract, that procurement would be done to the highest standards, and that the contract monitored to the highest professional standards.
  • An agreed acceptable level of service and adequate equipment supply, including books and premises maintenance must be enforceable conditions of any contract.

The PWRA Committee do not support this option.

Proposed Option 3: This option would involve eight libraries staying in Council control and open fewer days a week. The other five – Bradmore Green, Broad Green, Sanderstead, Shirley, and South Norwood libraries would be leased to community groups, with the council providing some staff two days a week, as well as books and IT support.
Staffing savings would be expected to be delivered and would be managed by the Council providing more control over the delivery. However, it is likely to take longer to achieve the buildings savings due to the need to effectively procure these community run services.

Suggested Issues for Consideration and Questions

  • For this option to work effectively, assuming one organisation is prepared to take on the responsibilities, the Council must ensure continuity of the service. It might be that the Council would be dealing with five separate community groups and how would they manage these?
  • It is impossible to conceive that a completely new voluntary organisation can take over and run the required service on an agreed vesting date. Transfer of public services such as a library is not a case of merely ‘contracting out’ an activity in the same way as, for example, refuse collection.
  • Transfers of services in other spheres in the past have required a transition period with support to the transferee over a period with the possibility of a reducing subsidy to ensure continuity of service. Such annual budgets will depend on the Council’s service specification and the operator’s business plan.

The PWRA Committee do not support this option.

The consultation also includes space for additional suggestions for delivery of the Library Service with a reduced budget.
8. If you have any other suggestions for how we could deliver the library service with the reduced budget, tell us here:

  • The council should consider whether the introduction of commercial offerings, such as (externally run) coffee shops, could both generate revenue (from rents), and drive increased usage and footfall in Libraries.


  1. I support Option 1

  2. I would suggest offer some paid services (such as paid clubs and coffees) during the opening hours including weekends, so the library will become more attractive and generate revenue

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