Harrow and Ealing libraries back in-house after Carillion collapse

Harrow and Ealing libraries back in-house after Carillion collapse

Harrow and Ealing councils have taken their library services back in-house following the collapse of contractor Carillion.

The government services provider went into liquidation earlier this month after losing money on big contracts and running up huge debts of around £1.5bn, putting thousands of jobs at risk across multiple sectors.

Carillion had run several public library services since 2013, including Hounslow, Ealing, Croydon and Harrow. Hounslow terminated its contract with Carillion last August and last week, Croydon Council stepped in to "secure the long-term future" of all its libraries and "guarantee the jobs of library staff" by taking the running of its library service back in house.

Now, Harrow and Ealing councils have also taken their library services back in-house.

The service at Ealing was brought back under council control after a petition objecting to them being outsourced garnered nearly 3,000 signatures, with high profile supporters including Benjamin Zephaniah and Michael Rosen.

A spokesperson for the council said that the move will ensure continuity of service for library users and allow time for all the options for the future of the service to be reviewed and considered.

"In order to secure the most efficient, value for money and high quality library services for residents and the future of the service, the decision has been taken to bring the service under the direct control of the council, with effect from 1st February 2018. All current library staff will have individual meetings to ensure they make a smooth transition to the council."

Meanwhile, Harrow Council has said that it will take over the six libraries in the borough for the time being in order to ensure the continuation of its services, although it has not ruled out outsourcing the service in the future.

Sue Anderson, responsible for community, culture and resident engagement, said: “We’re making sure our libraries aren’t affected by the collapse of Carillion. Right now, we’re taking the libraries in-house because that is the best way for us to take care of staff and keep services running normally."

It is understood that Carillion was involved with the running of Oxfordshire County Council's Oxford Central Library. The council has now revealed that it has terminated its contract  with Carillion, and will be responsible for those services as of 1st February 2018.

Discussing the impact of the contractor's collapse on local government services as a whole, a spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: "A relatively small number of councils are affected by the collapse of Carillion. They have been monitoring the situation closely and are implementing contingency plans to keep services running as normally as possible. Councils are also working with other public sector partners in their local area to be ready for any wider knock-on effects of Carillion’s failure.”

Meanwhile public service union UNISON has said it has been working with councils to ensure library staff are brought back in-house at the "earliest opportunity".

Head of local government Heather Wakefield told The Bookseller: "Libraries provide a vital public service, and are at the heart of every community. For now the most important thing is to ensure libraries remain open, services continue uninterrupted and any employees affected by the collapse are fully protected. It's in everyone's best interests that staff are brought back in-house at the earliest opportunity. UNISON is working with councils to ensure that that is what happens wherever possible."

Libraries body CILIP has called for a public inquiry to investigate whether the government knowingly issued contracts for the delivery of public services to a failing company following the collapse of Carillion.

Nick Poole, chief executive of CILIP, the library and information association, said: “The ongoing impact of the collapse of Carillion, not just on the running of frontline services but on the hidden mesh of back-office services which they were contracted to provide, highlights the very significant risks inherent in the Government’s outsourcing strategy. This is why CILIP is calling for a public inquiry, to assess the full extent of the impact of private-sector outsourcing on statutory public services.”