Over the past few months we’ve been working hard to save our library in Upper Norwood. For over 111 years this library has served the local community and sits at the heart of Upper Norwood. Since the election in May 2010 the Conservative administration in Croydon has ignored the agreement with Lambeth requiring representatives of the local community to be appointed to the library committee and instead appointed Tory cabinet members from the south of their borough.
We have always believed that the library shouldn’t be a political football and that the library committee is there to represent the local community, not political parties. When Gipsy Hill was represented by Tories, the Labour administration in Lambeth always stuck to the agreement and appointed them to the committee – a principle that Croydon Conservatives have ignored.
The Conservative administration in Croydon has now announced that it is pulling out of the library agreement with no public consultation and without the required 12 month notice period, withdrawing all funding and is seeking to appoint valuers so that they can prepare to sell the library building off. In contrast, Labour Lambeth is committed to the library, has funding in place for 2012-13 and has told the Tories in Croydon to “put the gun down”.
Lambeth residents make up just 30% of library users whilst over 40% are from Croydon – despite this only Lambeth has committed funding for the library next year, but without Croydon’s funding the library faces closure. We’ve been working hard – at meetings at Lambeth Town Hall, at the library, and with the local community, including the public meeting at the Salvation Army Halls, to keep the pressure on the Conservatives not to close our library.
At Lambeth’s Full Council meeting on the 25th January, Cllr Matthew Bennett presented a petition with over 800 signatures from residents across Upper Norwood who are as worried as we are about the future of our library. He also proposed a motion, which was passed by councillors which states:
“Council notes with regret the decision of the Conservative Administration in Croydon to withdraw all funding from the Upper Norwood Joint Library and to withdraw, without the required twelve month notice period, from the Upper Norwood Joint Library Agreement following eighteen months in which they have sought to exclude local community representatives from the governance of the library.
“Council shares in the concerns of library users, staff and the wider Upper Norwood community at Croydon’s approach to the library. In contrast, Council notes that the Lambeth Libraries Commission and the subsequent Cabinet report clearly restated Lambeth’s commitment to the Upper Norwood Library.
“Council joins with the local community and ward councillors in backing the Lambeth’s Administration’s call for Croydon to return to the negotiating table with the necessary funding to secure a viable future for the Upper Norwood Library.”
We are continuing to work with local residents, the library campaign and our Labour colleagues in Croydon who are fighting to bring the Tories to their senses. The Upper Norwood Library is an excellent example of how good local libraries can be, how well they can serve their communities. We need to find a way to put the library on a secure footing, out of the hands of politicians and in the hands of the community, so that it has (at least) another 111 years ahead of it.