Croydon Council’s ‘takeover’ of Upper Norwood joint library has been slammed as “not only unreasonable but wrong in law” by the boss of Lambeth council.
In a seven-page letter to Croydon, Lambeth’s chief executive Derrick Anderson CBE challenges Croydon to set out its legal position
The letter confirms what many people have suspected – that Croydon and Lambeth have been given totally different sets of legal advice about who can sit on the library’s joint committee.
It also reveals:
*Informal discussions were held between Croydon and Lambeth in the wake of last year’s chaotic annual meeting of the library committee;
*That Croydon have said they will send a valuer into the library on Westow Hill – which Lambeth say is a clear breach of the agreement;
*that Lambeth takes issue with Croydon’s claim that the joint library agreement is invalid in the event of one party committing a fundamental breach of the agreement. The letter tells Croydon it is incumbent upon them to identify which term or terms of the agreement Croydon allege have been broken by Lambeth. “You have failed to do so” says Mr Anderson
In his letter to Croydon chief executive Jon Rouse, Mr Anderson says: “This inaction in itself constitutes a breach of the agreement on the part of your authority.
“It lends further weight to the inevitable conclusion that your authority decided some time ago that it did not want to continue with the long-established joint committee.
“Your authority has been fully aware for some time of the crucial need to address the membership issue. “I was extremely disappointed that, whilst no reference whatsoever is made to this in your letter, the press release issued by Croydon on the same day (as Croydon announced the library ’takeover’) says:”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.”
Mr Anderson adds: “Having sought such legal advice, any authority acting reasonably in the spirit of partnership and in the interests of the joint committee and service users would have communicated this to its partner authority, not least so an opportunity would have been provided to consider this without jeopardising the very existence of the joint committee.
“For the record, Lambeth council does not accept that this is the position in law and therefore invites your authority to set out its legal position, having regard to the provisions of The Local Authorities (Arrangements for the Discharge of Functions) (England) Regulations 2000, which are reflected in the constitutions of both Croydon and Lambeth councils. “In summary:
“1: Where the functions to be discharged by a joint committee are all executive functions (as with the UNJL) then it is for the Leader to make the appointments to the joint committee;
“2: Subject to certain exceptions (see 3 below) all such appointments must be members of the executive and the political balance requirements do not apply;
“3: One of the exceptions is where the joint committee has executive functions in respect of only part of the area of one of the authorities concerned and that the area does not exceed two-fifths of the total area of the authority (as in the case of the UNJL). In that case the appointments to the joint committee may include members for wards which are wholly or partly within that part of the authority’s area.
“Again the political balance requirements do not apply and it remains the leader’s responsibility to make the appointments.
“Given that, as stated above, your authority was content to nominate two local ward councillors to the joint committee for the four-year period between 2006 and 2010, it presumably satisfied itself that this was lawful.
“This therefore begs the question as to why your authority now states that this would be illegal, hence my request above.”
Summing up Mr Anderson says Lambeth is satisfied the actions taken by Croydon are “not only unreasonable but wrong in law” – and it follows from this that Lambeth “does not necessarily accept” that the joint committee is “dissolved forthwith.”
In closing. Mr Anderson says Lambeth would only invoke an arbitration clause which is part of the joint library agreement as an action of last resort.
“I do, of course, sincerely trust that no such action will prove necessary and that a sensible way forward can be agreed.”
Lambeth gave Croydon seven days to respond to its letter of October 27th – the same amount of time which Croydon gave Lambeth to respond to their letter of October 21st.