Croydon were heavily criticised for the poor consultation on six of its libraries last year.
Residents were misled. At least one MP and many councillors, including the Cabinet member responsible, Cllr Sara Bashford, openly declared that libraries were a discretionary service and non statutory, clearly overlooking the 1964 Act. This ongoing saga is documented on Inside Croydon and Save Croydon Libraries Campaign.
Residents were put under pressure to volunteer from the outset of the consultation by eager Conservative councillors across the borough and one MP at least who couldn't wait to sign people up, feeding on the huge value residents placed on their local library. Despite this, the Summer Booktrail, only months later, faltered and struggled when Croydon attempted to run it, staffed by volunteers.
Residents were subjected to a shoddy consultation. Libraries ran out of consultation documents on numerous occasions, the children's consultation document was released only weeks before the close of the consultation and some residents handing the consultation document out were criticised by councillors and cabinet members for trying to advertise it. The documentation itself was flawed, leading to some questions being disregarded when the results were analysed. Anyone would think Croydon, the listening council, really wasn't so keen to hear what residents had to say.
Despite this, Croydon forged ahead with their plans to outsource all 13 libraries, on the basis of the views of the users of just six of their libraries. I wonder what the users of other libraries think? Clearly Croydon think it matters not a jot!
Given the judicial reviews, criticising local authorities handling of consultation processes (Gloucestershire and Somerset, then Brent, followed by Surrey and now Doncaster) wouldn't you think Croydon would take the time to at least tick the "has consulted" box?
It seems not! Just look at the latest turn of events...
Having withdrawn funding from Upper Norwood Joint Library, which Croydon has run with neighbouring Lambeth Council, they set about a consultation process on its future. Whilst Lambeth have consulted, have Croydon? Residents had to point out the error when Croydon announced that a consultation had started before any consultation papers were available. A mishap, perhaps. But this does not answer why Croydon, to this day, are advertising a consultation is soon to start, particularly when the consultation is soon to close. There is a Public Meeting on the evening of Thursday 16th May and completed consultation documents need to be returned by the deadline of Sunday 20th May. Will they ever learn?
The post on the council's official website:
And, just in case you missed the relevant part, here it is, in all its glory - Consultation, Croydon-style. Does this indicate to you that the consultation has started?
See it for yourself at http://www.croydon.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/croydonlibs/unorwoodlib before someone hastily corrects it after weeks of it being in place, with not a soul at the council noticing. Croydon, the listening council, Proud to Serve, indeed....apparently.
Will Croydon ever learn from their mistakes? I'll leave that up to you to judge for yourself. But ask me if Croydon Library supporters and campaigners are united to #savelibraries in Croydon and I can be much more assured in my answer. We are, and we don't intend to give up!
Full details can be found here http://www.unlc.org.uk/home/urgent-action/