Croydon Council is currently undertaking a consultation on the future of six of the boroughs 12 branch libraries – Bradmore Green, Broad Green, Norbury, Sanderstead, Shirley and South Norwood.
I should start by saying that I am very sympathetic to the difficult position the Council finds itself in. Like other councils, it is going to see significant reductions in the amount of money it gets from central government over the next few years and, given the current economic climate, it would be wholly wrong for it to significantly increase Council Tax to make up for the shortfall. It therefore has no choice but to reduce its spending and/or increase charges.
The current Conservative administration has already done a lot to make the Council more efficient and I know it will continue to do so but, given the scale of the reductions required, some reductions in frontline services are inevitable. It is right that the Council looks at all areas of its spending and asks residents their views so I applaud it for carrying out this consultation.
However, I will be responding to the consultation to say that I oppose the closure of Shirley Library – the only one on the list in my constituency - for four reasons:
1. The library is the only Council facility in Shirley district centre - unlike other district centres, Shirley doesn’t have a leisure centre, adult learning centre or satellite council office. Given that Shirley residents contribute a higher than average share of the Council’s tax income, it would be wrong for the Council to close its one facility in the district centre.
2. The consultation paper suggests that Ashburton Library, based at the Oasis Academy Shirley Park, could provide a library service for Shirley residents. Whilst this isn’t far from some parts of Shirley eg Shirley Oaks village, it is a long way from say the Shrublands estate and parking provision is very poor.
3. The consultation paper admits that, unlike most of the other branch libraries that the Council is considering closing, usage of Shirley Library is increasing.
4. Of the six branch libraries that the Council is considering closing, Shirley is the second cheapest to run.
I would encourage you to respond directly to the consultation - and encourage your neighbours to do likewise - by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by 20th February.