The news came in a shock announcement from Croydon council’s press office which stated: ”Croydon council has terminated its joint library agreement with Lambeth council in respect of the Upper Norwood Library after nearly two years of failure to get co-operation from the neighbouring borough.”
Now Lambeth council – which says Croydon’s move has come without any prior warning even to the library staff – have today formally asked Croydon to reconsider their deccision. In a council statement Cllr Florence Nosegbe, Lambeth’s cabinet member for culture,said: ”We are seeking urgent meetings to clarify their position”
Croydon gave Lambeth just seven days to respond to their decision – even though the agreement supposedly says each council must give at least a year’s notice of their decison to terminate the agreement.
Croydon’s move is bound to cause absolute uproar in the area.
The Croydon statement added:
“Following a decision by the leader of Croydon council (Cllr Mike Fisher), the borough’s chief executive has written to his counterpart in Lambeth, clearly setting out that this decision is due to Lambeth’s fundamental breach of the terms of the agreement.
“This breach has been caused by Lambeth refusing to attend the last annual general meeting and failing to co-operate at the 2010 meeting. “This means that there has been no effective oversight of the management of the library for almost two years, including no effective oversight of financial management and staffing issues.
“Lambeth also continues to insist on Croydon putting local councillors onto the committee, despite the fact that the council is advised that this would be illegal under current government legislation concerning executive committee structures.
“Croydon will ensure that the library remains open for the time being while two councils decide what happens next. “The library is in Lambeth so as statutory authority, “Lambeth first need to decide whether they want to take it on as part of their library service.
“While funds remain available in the account that was previously funded by the joint committee agreement Croydon has committed to continue to employ the staff and ensure proper financial management.
“Now that the agreement has been terminated, Croydon has asked Lambeth to respond within the next seven days with any specific proposals that they might have for the library’s future.
“Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for customer services, culture and sport, said: “We have asked Lambeth to respond to us with their view on the way forward in the next seven days “We have a responsibility to our residents to spend their money prudently and within the letter of the law, and with Lambeth boycotting its management role this is impossible.”
Croydon’s press release then ends: “However in the meantime Croydon has taken on the responsibility for properly managing the affairs of the library.”
Shortly after 11 am this morning two Croydon officers were present in the library.
Cllr Nosegbe’s prepared statement said:
“We want to continue to work in partnership with Croydon to deliver local services for local people. “We have made our financial contribution for this year and expect to see the service continue.
“It goes without saying that we are extremely disappointed that Croydon have attempted to dissolve this partnership which has come without prior warning or consultation with us as partners, or with local residents and staff. “Their public statement today can only serve to threaten the future of the library.
“Lambeth remains committed to the Upper Norwood Joint Library and keeping our side of the arrangement. “We are today formally asking Croydon to reconsider their decision, and are seeking urgent meetings to clarify their position.”
*Tessa Jowell. MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, and in whose constituency the library sits, said: “This is devestating news for the Upper Norwood Library. “Like the local community I am shocked and angered by their plan to rip the heart out of the area by closing this much loved library that has been jointly funded for over 100 years. “I cannot understand the reasons that Croydon have given and I do hope that they will see sense and think again” she added.
Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks said: “Croydon Council’s unilateral action poses a grave threat to the iconic Upper Norwood Library which is much loved and used in the community. “It would be tragic if brinkmanship between two councils leads to the loss of the library.”
Lambeth Councillor Matthew Bennett (Lab. Gipsy Hill) said: “It’s like a coup. “Staff were only advised this morning by letter so Croydon have been planning this for some time.” Cllr Bennett and his colleagues will bve distributing 1,000 leaflets to homes close to the library and in Gipsy Hill ward, including Central Hill estate, tomorrow (Saturday) about today’s events.
Crystal Palace Community Association chairman John Payne said: “This is a very complex situation and the CPCA is taking advice. “We will be making a statement in due course.”