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Library row splits town halls
Friday, 12 October 2012
A FUNDING dispute has broken out between town halls over cuts to a public library they jointly own.
Upper Norwood Joint Library (UNJL) in Westow Hill, Upper Norwood, is co-owned by Lambeth and Croydon councils, with both contributing funds for its running costs.
The library will be run by a not-for-profit community group from April next year, with both councils contributing less money.
The authorities shared responsibility for the past 112 years under a joint agreement. But that came to an end last year. The total running costs of UNJL were £436,983 in 2011 – with Lambeth contributing £211,000 and Croydon £189,000.
Both councils have had to cut spending on libraries this year.
In the summer, Conservative-run Croydon council carried out a public consultation which opted to cut funding by £114,000 – which 56 per cent of people thought would have a negative impact on the service.
One consultee said: “With 21,000 members we have one of the most used libraries... the small budget makes it one of the lowest costs per member and visit anywhere. You [Croydon council] promised to support our library and are reneging on this.”
At that council’s scrutiny and strategic overview committee last Friday, councillors voted to go ahead with the funding cut – despite objections from Lambeth’s Labour council leader Steve Reed.
He has vowed to continue to work with Croydon to find a community group to take on the service.
Cllr Reed said: “We will not allow this cut to funding from Croydon Tories to destroy this much-loved local library.
Lambeth has made a firm commitment to continue to fund the Upper Norwood Joint Library at £170,000 a year.
“We want to work with the community to set up a trust to secure the library’s future. It has a proud 112-year history of independence and that is something we want to maintain.”
In July, Lambeth also approved changes to its nine borough libraries, with community “hubs” created, giving local groups a greater say.
A spokesman for Croydon council said: “Our consultation did indeed show significant local support for the library and in the light of the earlier announcement from Lambeth of its committed funding. and following an analysis of the actual costs of running comparable branch libraries in Croydon, we concluded that a £75,000 contribution was more than adequate to ensure that Upper Norwood is able to remain in operation under new arrangements.”
What do you think? Who should pay for the library? Write to: South London Press, 2-4 Leigham Court Road, London SW16 2PD.
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