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26 September 2011 | Angeline Albert
Fierce opposition to the axing of local libraries has forced procurement teams in two London boroughs to collaborate to find an alternative to the closure.
The London Borough of Croydon and the London Borough of Wandsworth have now started a joint project to source a provider who can take over the management of libraries in both areas. The two councils are now involved in market testing, including benchmarking potential providers.
Private companies, community organisations and other local authorities could bid to run the service. Although the tender will be run jointly, each authority will still be able to select their own provider if they disagree on supplier selection.
The plan, outlined at a cabinet meeting in Croydon this month, came after local residents expressed anger at the idea of closing six libraries in the borough to save money. "When people said they didn't want to see libraries close, we listened and opted to see who else could help run the service," said Conservative councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for customer services, culture and sport.
The council added in a statement: “By working jointly with Wandsworth, the council hopes to share costs and knowledge and benefit from the potential economies of scale - particularly if one company is appointed to run both boroughs' services,” said a statement.
There are 14 libraries in Croydon and 11 in Wandsworth. Faced with having to save £70 million over the next four years, Wandsworth is hoping to reduce the £6.5 million it spends on its libraries annually.
“We in Wandsworth, have saved hundreds of millions over the past 30 years by outsourcing services,” said a spokesman for Wandsworth council. “We are already sharing the management of our press offices with the [London Borough of] Hammersmith and Fulham, which has halved the management cost. We would hope to place adverts for a tender to manage libraries in six months time.”
The two boroughs are the latest councils to announce collaborative purchasing plans in a bid to save money, after the UK government cut the budgets of local authorities.