Not only are Croydon Council tax payers being hit by a 3.99 % hike this year but Croydon Council are now asking residents to run the services!
Papers presented to Cabinet on Monday announce consultations in respect of libraries and parks and both are seeking volunteers to take on board the responsibility and any risks with the delivery of these frontline services.
Whilst Croydon has a rich resource of volunteers and many will undoubtedly wish to volunteer their services, the Council will take the opportunity to permanently withdraw their professional staff who are currently running these services, leaving them entirely for local communities to run and manage.
In the short term this may indeed work well but there are serious questions about how sustainable this will be. We do of course have an example close to hand with the Upper Norwood Joint Library being a community-run library since 2012 and now struggling financially. Their dedicated Trustees describing their frustration with endless meetings trying to get some sort of financial settlement, which has openly been described as ‘shoddy’.
Included in the libraries consultation are questions about additional uses for libraries within the leisure concept so is Croydon looking to do what Lambeth is doing and turning their libraries into gyms with profits being creamed off by private companies to the detriment of books and learning? This is proving deeply unpopular with residents where it has been forced upon them and we cannot see Croydon residents being happy about it either.
At a time when Croydon libraries are seeing increases in both visits and books borrowed, it seems an absolute nonsense to throw their ongoing viability into doubt. Croydon residents love their libraries and will be very unhappy about any plans to significantly change them.