Private company set to be named preferred bidder to run Croydon's libraries

Croydon Guardian: The reccommendation will be made at the Corporate Services Committee this evening The reccommendation will be made at the Corporate Services Committee this evening

Croydon Council is set to name John Laing Integrated Services as its preferred bidder to take over the running of the borough’s libraries.

Secret papers seen by the Croydon Guardian recommend the private company ahead of rival bids from South London Libraries and Cultural Services and Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), with the latter’s bid coming in for severe criticism.

The decision comes after Wandsworth and Croydon councils joined forces to put their library services out to tender, a move both councils claim will save hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A committee made up of council officers from both authorities was assembled to assess the bids, which were individually tailored to the demands of each council.

Last week Wandsworth councillors voted for GLL to run its services, but in the report to Croydon council the charitable social enterprise received a mark of ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ in 12 of the 19 available criteria.

The report, to be discussed at a Corporate Services Committee tonight states: "The submission from GLL after clarifications, the dialogue process, and seeking submission of refined final tenders from them and the other bidders, scored 1 in relation to staffing, training, development and HR issues.

"Detailed consideration of the bid by the joint evaluation team left significant outstanding concerns.

"Accordingly the GLL bid has been rejected."

GLL also scored two (weak) on deliverability in 11 out of 19 criteria but the paper states that it is not the basis for their rejection.

The report states John Laing offers the most economically advantageous tender to the council.

A Croydon council spokesman said a formal announcement about who will run the libraries will be announced in the next few weeks.

He said: "What we can continue to assure residents is that no branches will be lost, and the new contract also guarantees that the council will retain the freehold of all the library buildings currently in its ownership.

"Existing levels of service will not only be maintained, but, where possible, book stocks will be increased, facilities upgraded and opportunities will be sought to provide a wider range of public services from local libraries.

He added: "By running the library service at arms length from the council there will also be far more possibilities for making links with commercial businesses.

"The library network will also continue to look for more opportunities to involve members of the community and create links with the voluntary sector through friends groups, fundraising events and social and learning activities."

A spokesman for Wandsworth council defended GLL.

He said: "The winning bid for the Wandsworth contract came from a highly successful charitable social enterprise with a wealth of experience in running public services.

"It offers the best value for money for local tax payers, guarantees that all our library branches will remain open, and that all core library services will remain free of charge to users."

A GLL spokeswoman said: "At this stage we can’t comment on the matter as GLL haven’t been formally notified yet and matters have not been signed off officially.”

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