Croydon Council has ruled out closing five of its libraries but may work in partnership with an organisation or reduce opening hours under detailed plans going to consultation in June.
The council consulted local residents from January to March on early proposals to adapt the future library service while making necessary budget savings.
These early proposals were based around closing the libraries with the highest maintenance costs and lowest visitor numbers – at Bradmore Green, Shirley, Sanderstead, South Norwood and Broad Green – unless they could be run without costing public money.
At a meeting on Monday the council’s cabinet discussed this initial consultation phase, with local feedback highlighting the importance of local libraries and requesting more access to them out of hours.
Since this initial consultation, the council has identified funding to meet these five libraries’ repair costs. This money, from the ring-fenced Community Infrastructure Levy which councils can charge to limit the impact of new developments, would also cover the fit-out costs of the new South Norwood library and give more users out-of-hours access through Open + swipe cards.
As a result, cabinet decided that from the beginning of June there will be further consultation on detailed proposals based around three options – none of which would involve closing libraries.
Option one would mean all libraries remain in council control and be open two fewer days per week, except the central library that would open five days per week. Under option two the council would work in partnership with an organisation to run all 13 libraries, which could include a charity or social enterprise.
Option three would keep eight libraries in council control and open two fewer days a week. The other five would be leased to community groups, with the council providing some staff two days a week, as well as books and IT support.
Cabinet dropped three other options because they would not have met the savings needed – one that involved closing the five libraries; and two others to lease five libraries to community groups, with either full or reduced hours at the other eight.
“We have listened to and acted on residents’ feedback by changing our proposals so that all 13 of our libraries will stay open in a way that would still allow us to make much-needed savings.
“I want to thank everyone who has taken part in the consultation so far, and I would encourage everyone who cares about their libraries to have their say again when we go live with detailed proposals at the beginning of June.”
Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture and regeneration
After the second eight-week consultation phase, a final decision on Croydon’s future library service is due at Full Council in late summer.