Angry response to councils' library plans
Council plans to create a private company to run its library services have sparked an angry response from campaigners.
Last year, Wandsworth and Croydon councils joined forces and put their library services out to tender, with three preferred bidders chosen.
One of them came from Wandsworth Council which has just revealed further details of its plan to do this by creating South London Library and Cultural Services (SLLCS), a private company with charity status.
It will make Croydon and Wandsworth one of the first places in the UK to outsource its library services.
Wandsworth Council said the move would improve library services and mean no library would be forced to close.
Library spokesman Councillor Jonathan Cook said: "Five years ago our options were limited but now there is a developing and competitive marketplace out there with a lot to offer.
"If an outsider can do a better job at a lower cost then we won't be afraid to take the first step.
"We've been through this process in other areas like leisure centres, refuse collection and meals on wheels.
"The results have been improved services, new ideas and better value for money."
A council document said the SLLCS would work as a separate company to the council, with current staff being transferred to the new company.
It said: "This creation of an external company, independent of the council, would complement the council’s big society policies and would help towards the general council aim of smaller government.
"The current budget for the library service is in excess of £5 million but the affordability figure for the Wandsworth contract is £4.9 million so it is anticipated that the tender process will result in a reduction in costs to the council."
But Colin Crilly, of Wandsworth Against Cuts, said: "Wandsworth Council are considering letting the Wandsworth library service run Wandsworth libraries. You couldn't make it up could you?
"To put it simply, Wandsworth council, and other local authorities are looking to offload our libraries and other public services.
"They'll blame it on the financial crisis, and then hand them over to private companies, or to charities.
"Once privatised, libraries will no longer be a service for the public, but a business."