Libraries plan moves a step closer

Published: 6 July 2012

Three organisations have been shortlisted as potential partners under innovative plans to deliver better and more cost effective library services in two London boroughs.

Wandsworth and Croydon councils are working together to find new ways of managing their libraries - with the aim of improving services, becoming more responsive to customer needs and offering better value for money for local tax payers.

Last year the two boroughs began exploring new ways of running libraries and the potential benefits of harnessing the knowledge and experience of different service providers.

This market-testing process has led to three organisations being identified as having the vision, the expertise and the financial backing to deliver top quality library services in the two boroughs.

This evaluation process has led to three organisations being shortlisted.  These include a local authority, a private company and a social enterprise. They are Wandsworth Council's library service, John Laing Integrated Services Ltd and Greenwich Leisure Ltd.
 
These organisations will now undergo further detailed dialogue before submitting their final submissions. The preferred bidder is due to be selected later this year.

Wandsworth's environment and culture spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "The libraries in our two boroughs are among the most popular and best loved in London. Our aim is to build on these achievements and deliver a new and improved service for our residents.

"Our partnership with Croydon will utilise the latest service innovations while also allowing us to generate savings by sharing overheads and purchasing power.

"In these tough economic times we must ensure libraries continue to evolve and keep pace with fast changing needs and demands from the public."

Croydon's cabinet member for children, young people and learning Cllr Tim Pollard said: "Contracted services have saved local authorities such as ours many millions of pounds over the years. This exercise is an exciting opportunity to replicate these efficiencies and, at the same time, deliver some real improvements and innovations that will be for the benefit of all our customers."

The successful contractor will be expected to continue providing core library services free of charge to users, while library buildings will remain in the ownership of the local authority.

Across the country as many as 600 libraries have recently been shut down or are facing closure as the national debt is brought under control.

Cllr Cook added: "Like every other council we have to reduce our spending but the aim here is to keep our libraries open and thriving. We want to avoid what has happened in other parts of the country, which has been the closure of many local branch libraries."

This was echoed by Cllr Pollard who added: "We consulted with residents last year at a time when our branch libraries were under threat due to funding cuts and they made it clear that protection of every branch had to be a priority. This market testing and tendering process is a direct result of that consultation and underpins our primary concern, which is to meet this expectation."