Newsletter August 2010


The Campaign and other Crystal Palace community groups are alarmed by yet another inappropriate manoeuvre by Croydon Council, regarding the Upper Norwood Joint Library. It smacks of duplicity, as Croydon Council flouts the Upper Norwood Joint Library partnership agreement.

Croydons four nominations, exclusively Conservative Cabinet Members from the far side of the borough, to this years Joint Library Committee is a clear breach of the legally binding Joint Agreement between Croydon and Lambeth Council.

Moreover, it appears to be a deliberate misinterpretation of Croydons own constitution as a means of maintaining political control of the Joint Library Committee.

Cllr Mike Fisher, Leader of Croydon Council, seems to be under the impression that the UNJL provides library services for 40% of the Croydon borough and consequently has appointed four Cabinet members. According to Croydons own constitution, local ward councillors can serve on Joint Committees which represent less than two-fifths of the borough, as with UNJL. There were local Upper Norwood councillors on the Joint Committee between 2006-10, but Croydon are now attempting to replace them with councillors from Selsdon, Fairfield and Croham, miles away from Upper Norwood.

Given their other council commitments, how could these councillors have any time, local knowledge or interest in the Upper Norwood Joint Library? UNLC regards Croydons latest behaviour as another insult to the people of Crystal Palace and an affront to local democracy.

Read more inside.

Croydons nominations overturn a 2006 amendment to the Joint Library Agreement, endorsed by both Councils, that at least two Members (of the four Joint Committee members) from each party (borough) should represent the Upper Norwood area.

Croydon do not understand the criteria for membership of the Joint Library Committee, nor have they grasped the fundamental funding issues, which affect the library service. On the basis of past experience, what is their hidden agenda service cuts, staff redundancies or even closure?


Before Mays local elections, Cllr Mike Fisher said he personally endorsed the new Upper Norwood Joint Library Charter. The Charter promotes a clear and unambiguous commitment to the historically successful independent model of Joint Library service management.

Just three months later, in a letter to the Leader of Lambeth Council, Cllr Fisher has performed a huge u-turn. He now threatens to disregard the Joint Library Agreement, unless Lambeth Council as a partner, submit to Croydons ultimatum that the library be more efficient, thus ignoring independent evidence which shows that, pro rata, the library provides the cheapest library service in London.

Cllr Fisher is demanding that the library comes under the direct control of Croydon or Lambeth, destroying its historic 110-year-old independence. Croydons agenda is not supported by any other stakeholder or interested party and would be a breach of the Joint Library Agreement. It will provoke outrage in the Crystal Palace community who want the library to remain jointly provided and independent of both Croydons and Lambeths library services.

Cllr Fisher must be well aware that Croydons withdrawal from the Joint Agreement would lead to the closure of the library. If Cllr Fisher and Croydon get their way, they will be responsible for the death of an institution that has persisted through thick and thin and served the community so well for 110 years.

This latest cynical deception follows closely on Croydons pre-election promise that if they retained control, Lambeths level of funding would be matched in 2010-11: an increase from £186,000 to £211,000. A promise now forgotten! The 2010 Croydon Conservative manifesto fails to mention a Croydon takeover or withdrawal from the Joint Agreement.

Croydons attack on Upper Norwood Joint Library and the community it serves is deplorable. Croydon Council have spent four years ignoring the evidence and insisting they are right and everyone else is wrong. This ignorance is now threatening the very existence of our much-loved and historic Joint Library.

The Librarys true value and quality is recognised by users, the community, Lambeth councillors and by the new minister for libraries, Ed Vaizey, who visited the library last year. Croydons lip service is now exposed for the deceit that it is.


This unique independent library jointly funded by Lambeth and Croydon Councils celebrated its 110th anniversary this year
but heres how Croydon Council is putting the future of the Library at risk

Local councillors not allowed to represent local people
Blatant gerrymandering as four Conservative Cabinet councillors from other parts of Croydon are nominated to serve on the management committee.

Endorsed but ignored
Publicly supported but now disregard for the Upper Norwood Joint Library Charter and its commitment to independence.

An offer you cannot accept
A u-turn on the library agreement with demands that Lambeth submits to Croydons ultimatum to have the Library swallowed up into Croydons dismal library empire.

Looking for excuses
Opportunity knocks in the shape of the national economic crisis, which is cynically grasped with both hands, to lay the blame for failings elsewhere. Croydon Council must be the only people to welcome the recession.

Negative attitudes
Repeated claims of inefficiency, yet the Joint Library is the cheapest library service in London and costs Croydon half that of one of their own branch libraries.

Broken promises
Croydons pre-election promise to match fund to Lambeths higher level is now unlikely to happen.

Provokes outrage
The Crystal Palace community want the library to remain jointly funded and independent: Croydon want to destroy its historic 110-year old independence.

Up to 34% increases in allowances for Leader of the Council, Cllr Fisher, and his colleagues, whilst Council staff suffer pay freezes and redundancies, and the library budget is slashed again.

Croydons withdrawal will result in closure of the Library



Oh dear! Does anything change with Croydon?

Well, yes. Upper Norwood overwhelmingly changes its political colour from blue to red. Otherwise, it is business as usual. Gerrymandering and political intrigue appears to pervade the corridors of the Council HQ where UNJL is concerned. Alarmingly, Lambeth Council may inadvertently be made to look foolish and complicit if the latest ruse for Croydon to maintain control is not quashed. The farcical Joint Committee AGM can only be explained by Croydons desperate desire to sort out UNJL once and for all under the guise of the national economic deficit.

The UNLC will press both Councils for fairness regarding the Librarys unique independent status, which is seen as a national model of effectiveness on how to run a service. We will continue to seek funding at the appropriate level to provide a service that the residents of Crystal Palace deserve, with clear and unambiguous support, free from political bias, while creating a secure future for the library. Government concepts of community empowerment through localism and the Big Society allow for the communitys views to be listened to and be fulfilled.

UNJL is popular and valued in our community and must continue to provide its vast range of activities to promote the enjoyment of reading, especially to children, as well as encouraging visits through locally focussed events. Only a guarantee of proper support from Croydon Council, addressing the concerns expressed above, along with Lambeths continued involvement, will quell the local communitys fears that the library is being run down or may close. We still hope for a new spirit of harmony and co-operation in this, the 110th anniversary year.

The UNJL organised themed activities for the Independence Day Birthday Weekend (3rd & 4th July), a time of much fun and enjoyment, celebrating its success at serving the local community for 110 years - but where were the Croydon Cabinet councillors who had been so eager to be elected to the Joint Committee so they could attend those celebrations?



UNJL Charter

The Charter promotes a clear and unambiguous commitment to the historically successful independent model of Joint Library service management (as supported by the Crystal Palace community), via:

1. Ensuring the provision of a library service that is specific to and defined by the needs of the Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood community and which is as distinctive and diverse as the locality that it serves.

2. Retention and continuation of the Joint Library Agreement by both parent authorities, together with the legal obligations enshrined within it.

3. Retention of the traditional and long-standing independent governance and management arrangements for the service, with the Joint Library Authority managed by the Joint Library Committee.

4. Retention of reporting lines of UNJL staff exclusively to members of the Joint Library Committee (via the Chief Librarian).

5. Retention (and ideally expansion) of community representation in decision-making processes for the service.

6. Retention of the principles of equal funding, ownership, influence and representation by both parent authorities.

7. Recognition that all service benchmarking of the UNJLA with other library authority services (of cost, budgets, performance, value for money, etc) shall be on the basis of standard like for like comparisons.

8. Recognition by members of the Joint Library Committee of their inherent obligation to promote, support and advocate the UNJLA, both within their respective Councils and throughout the wider community.

January 2010 David Malone (Cllr)
Chair of the UNJL 2009/10


This new Charter demonstrates a positive way forward for the Upper Norwood Joint Library.

After years of political wrangling and uncertainty as to its future, the Upper Norwood Joint Library could be celebrating its 110th anniversary year in a new spirit of harmony and co-operation.

At the well-attended January meeting of the Joint Library Committee, Lambeth Chair Councillor David Malone launched the new Charter, which serves primarily as a re-affirmation of the principles and traditions that have guided and sustained the Upper Norwood Joint Library Authority (UNJLA) since its inception in 1898.

The document includes a number of principles that recommend a continuation of the popular and unique independent status of the Crystal Palace based service, whilst calling on all members of the Joint Library Committee to recognise their inherent obligation to promote, support and advocate the UNJLA, both within their respective Councils and throughout the wider community. It also reminds both of the parent boroughs (Lambeth and Croydon) that, considerable kudos accrues to the two parent boroughs for initiating and maintaining this unique arrangement. The Joint Library provides a stand-alone and self-sufficient library service that is specifically aimed at the Crystal Palace community.

Londons most cost-effective library
The Charter was launched on the same night that it was revealed that the Upper Norwood Joint Library is the most efficient library service in London.

The Chief Librarians report showed that the Joint Library is 50% cheaper per capita, than the average cost of library services in Greater London and 56% cheaper than those of Inner London. The analysis was based on the latest official CIPFA expenditure statistics and the audited accounts of the Joint Library.
In 2007-08 the average cost of library services per 1,000 residents for Greater London was £23,534. In the same year, the audited accounts and management information for the Joint Library indicate a pro-rata equivalent expenditure of £12,117 per 1,000 residents. The cost of Croydons library service in 1992-93 was £4,585,000. In 2006-07 this had increased by £3,271,000, to £7,856,000 a rise of 71%. Croydons contribution to the UNJL in 2006-07 was £156,000, less than 1% higher than it was in 1992-93.

Unsubstantiated criticism
This contradicts a number of Croydon Council press releases and statements over the past three years, which have persistently and mistakenly alleged that the Joint Library needed to show greater efficiency and that it should have its popular services amended to become more cost-effective.

The UNLC welcome the initiative of a Charter - but are tired of certain politically motivated councillors who, despite their platitudes, continue to denigrate the amazing service that our library provides - imagine how much more could be offered with proper funding and the rules of the Joint Agreement being adhered to.

Time after time, Croydons allegations of inefficiency have been shown to be groundless. On the contrary, the Upper Norwood Joint Library is much more efficient than the established library services. For instance, as of 2006-07, Croydons Central Library has increased in cost by 200% since 1992-93, whilst their financial contribution to the Joint Library has only gone up by 19% - as of this current year - compared to 18 years ago.

Crystal Palace residents pay the same Council Tax for their library services as those in other parts of Lambeth and Croydon, but see less than 65% of it invested in their own local library service.


The AGM took place on 31st March with guest speaker, Cllr Graham Pycock, who spoke about Total Place, the spectacular experiment in localism that is emerging elsewhere. He praised UNJL as an example of localism in action, with public participation, campaigning power and decision-making. By not recognising the exemplary model in UNJL, there are lost opportunities and a failure of imagination.

The Committee elected for the next year 2010-11 are:

Chair - Joe Figueira
Vice Chair - Don Bianco
Secretary, Treasurer - Pam Gray
Members - Bernadette Ganley
- John Payne
- John Tooze
- Dick Tooze

Don Bianco and Joe Figueira were elected to stand as UNLC representatives on the Joint Committee in 2010-11 through the Norwood Forum and Norbury & Upper Norwood Neighbourhood Partnership.

Proceedings of the meeting are available on request from the Secretary.

The Committee thanks all those who attended and the Campaign membership for their support and encouragement. We are also very grateful to Chief Librarian, Bradley Millington, and his staff for the use of the Community Room and for their help.


In a demonstration of solidarity, campaigners fighting for the future of Upper Norwood Library packed the 30th June AGM of the Upper Norwood Library Joint Committee, where the incoming committee were due to elect its new Chair. The meeting was adjourned inconclusively after it descended into farce.

Acrimonious exchanges between Lambeth and Croydon councillors centred around Croydons attempted appointment of four councillors from remote areas of the borough, when the Joint Agreement calls for two local councillors from each borough to be appointed to the UNJL Committee.

Croydon Councillors appeared content to operate anonymously until pressed to introduce themselves and state which wards they represented. Councillor Vidhi Mohan (Con. Fairfield) did so in the spirit of goodwill failing to recognise his duty to do so, and clearly embarrassed by the fact that he and his fellow members represent no one locally.

The 4 councillors are:

Sara Bashford (Con. Selsdon and Ballards)
Vidhi Mohan (Con. Fairfield)
Jason Perry (Con. Croham)
Phil Thomas (Con. Selsdon and Ballards)

Following the recent Local Council Elections, Croydon has no Conservative councillors for Upper Norwood. In appointing four Tory Cabinet members from remote wards, Croydon shows it is not prepared, unlike Lambeth, to accept local councillors from outside their own party for the UNJL committee, thus sidelining Cllrs Pat Ryan, John Wentworth and Alisa Fleming (Lab. Upper Norwood).

There was uproar when Croydons officers and Cabinet Councillors challenged the validity of the 1994 UNJL Agreement. This contrived 'objection' is no more than a political manoeuvre, as both Lambeth and Croydon have acknowledged the requirement and provided local representation for the past 4 years.


Cllr Bennett (Lambeth) reflected public perception in saying "...there is no respect from Croydon for the people of Upper Norwood."

Cllr Nosegbe (Lambeth) said "...Lambeth are totally committed to this and would like to see local representatives from the London Borough of Croydon on this committee...in the best interests of the library."

Cllr Bashford (Croydon Cabinet member for libraries) said "...the members were chosen because in the past Croydon had been criticised for not taking the library seriously enough...and it is not trying to control the committee to implement cuts.


We report that Ed Vaizey has been appointed minister for libraries.

As Shadow Minister, he had supported libraries. Outspoken about wasted reviews, counter-productive initiatives, lost opportunities and lack of effective direction, Vaizey pledged that, if elected, the Tories would bring in a voluntary Library Charter for local authorities to sign up to, committing themselves to providing a "first-class library service", as well as establishing a development agency for libraries through the MLA, with a four-year programme to inspire local authorities to invest in their library service.

Vaizey says that a library without books lots of books is not a library. But the need for action is urgent, and the first 12 months of a Conservative administration should be used to get down to the job.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will abolish the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and the Advisory Council on Libraries (ACL). Library campaigners have been calling for strong leadership to be shown in the sector, but what will replace the MLA and ACL is not clear. Simply handing over to local government lock, stock and leaking barrel, would hardly be progress. Some councils have a very bad record on libraries. How will the aims in the 1964 Libraries Act to sustain a comprehensive and efficient service be safeguarded and the voices of the users be heard?

Time now to see if the powerful advocacy and strong leadership required and longed for materialises. Vaizey can ensure that libraries underpin social fairness, literacy and opportunities for all, thereby earning the respect and gratitude of those whose local authorities are dismembering their library service without a care for the future or for the needs of the library user.

UNJL is a shining cost-effective, popular and community-engaged model showing just how localism works effectively, and where, despite long-standing financial handicap of insufficient capital and revenue funding from Croydon and Lambeth, it has continued to offer a remarkable level of performance and service compared with a conventional library service. It has even pre-empted Vaizey by launching its own Charter.


Public Libraries are an easy target for Government public sector spending cuts in the plan to deal with the economic deficit. Not enough is being done to make our libraries financially viable - every small cut or change in the short-term will create bigger and more expensive problems in the long-term.

Local authorities have long regarded library closures as easy option cost cutting. This is because grants targeted at library services are not ring-fenced, so limiting the options available to local authorities.

Already there are savage service reductions in Southampton, Hampshire, Blackburn, Bolton, Doncaster, Cambridgeshire and elsewhere. Closer to home, there are difficulties in Lewisham, where 5 of its 12 public libraries - some 40% of its service - are proposed for closure. Following 10 years of profligate spending with questionable results, now, in response to the national funding crisis, Lewishams cost cutting solution of multiple library closures attempts to save £830,000 over 3 years. Some of the cuts are on a similar scale to those that were reversed in Wirral. Worryingly, rumours of the preparation of similar closure programmes are widespread throughout London, to be put before Councils in the autumn for implementation in 2011, thus the cuts will be felt before the next election round in 2014.

Three years ago, Walthamstow Council closed one of its libraries without prior notice or consultation. Since then, residents have organised themselves, and have been battling with the Council at every possible opportunity to get the library reopened.

The perceived wisdom is that once a library has been closed, it will never reopen. Walthamstow Council was probably reckoning that if it just rode the storm, residents would give up, but it miscalculated. The struggle is on-going and it is the Council which is beginning to tire. The St James Street Library Campaign continues with their fight.

The Walthamstow case shows that it is better to act before the Council shuts your library, rather than after.

Library user and friends groups along with national and local library organisations must rally together in the national fight against cuts to library services.


Change is overdue. Tim Coates takes on the chairmanship of LLL, Libraries for Life for Londoners, an alliance of London library user groups, a coordinated voice in the battle to save and promote libraries across the capital.

There is a determined need for LLL to speak with a clear community voice of library users and make sure that those councils and agencies that manage the service know what is required. The London Library Change Programme was established in 2007, spent over £300,000 to change nothing. Improving libraries is not difficult and can fundamentally be addressed by increasing opening hours, improving book collections and creating attractive environments to read, work or study.
The council elections and new government created the perfect environment for change. LLL has launched its own Library Manifesto, which outlines the key areas that need to be addressed to give Londoners the libraries they deserve. It calls for the Mayor of London to take a hands-on role in the improvement of Londons libraries. A new start for public libraries should be his legacy.

The national libraries Charter, which evolved from the LLL Library Manifesto and consultations with the MLA and others, provides a basis for good practice for library services, with the opportunity for subsequent amendments at local level.

Both LLL and the UNJL have pre-empted Ed Vaizey by launching their own charters.


This national organisation has recognised that library users at last have an opportunity for a proper role:

The Conservative-Lib Dem Government is rolling out its ambitious Big Society programme, supposedly to create a climate that empowers local people and communities. What will the Big Society mean in practice? Local Government legislation already confers some powers to communities that could be used and a legal duty to treat petitions properly has recently come into force.


F E E D B A C K Y OU R V I E W S, information, comments, opinions
We would welcome your views on the library and all Campaign matters
Contact us: UNLC, 5 Becondale Road, Upper Norwood, London SE19 1QJ
[email protected]
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