All but one of Croydon’s libraries could close as part of the council’s attempt to save money following the Chancellor’s spending review last week.
Cllr Timothy Godfrey, Croydon cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said that extensive cuts to the library network were possible after the grant given to local authorities was cut by 56% by 2019/20, the Croydon Advertiser has reported.
“It’s a possibility all of [the libraries] could close apart from what you would call the core statutory ones,” Godfrey said. “It’s a statutory service but it depends how you define what that is. [We] could go down to [just] the Central Library.”
He added: “In all fairness [we] should have proper coverage across the borough and that’s what we’re committed to. Our manifesto commitment is not to close any libraries but equally we didn’t know the level of cuts would be like this.”
Godfrey said the council would have to consider different and less expensive ways of providing library services and that he is open to suggestions about the future. He said: “If any organisation stepped forward and said they wanted to be involved in running their local library then we would talk to them because it’s a nice way to reduce costs."
Cllr Tim Pollard, leader of the Conservative opposition group, said that "times are tight at the moment" but added: "It’s all about the choices you make. They’ve spent quite a lot of money on things [the borough doesn't] need in recent months. They’ve been able to find money for things they want to do but they’re not able to find money for libraries.”
He added: “Once a library is gone you will never get it back.”
Earlier this month, the council offered voluntary redundancy to 2,800 staff. The spending review means the council will have to consider more significant cuts to services.
Godfrey said: “It does change our commitment – we’re hugely ambitious – but if you have 56% less funding from government and huge pressures on the front line it means there aren’t huge amounts of money to splash about.”
The 13 libraries in Croydon are Central Library, Ashburton, Bradmore Green, Broad Green, Coulsdon, New Addington, Norbury, Purley, Sanderstead, Selsdon, Shirley, South Norwood and Thornton Heath.