A COMMUNITY campaign to save Upper Norwood Library from closure has paid off – with a deal between Croydon and Lambeth councils now in place.
Under the arrangement Croydon will fund the library to the tune of £75,000 a year for the next two years, with Lambeth footing an annual £150,000 bill.
The deal has already been given a broad welcome from campaigners who have fought against the threat of closure after Croydon pulled out of its long-standing partnership with Lambeth.
They will now push ahead with finalising the details of an independent trust, which aims to run the library under a co-operative model being introduced across Lambeth's library service.
Robert Gibson, a member of the newly-formed trust, said: "Given that in March last year there was very serious concern the library would shut, it is welcome news that the library will clearly survive for at least two more years, and hopefully much longer."
He said there were a lot of details to be worked out and the trust would want to ensure that the library continued to run independently and be operated by professional staff.
But while the deal is supported in principle by Labour councillors in the area, they remain unhappy with the level of finance being provided by Croydon.
The agreement was announced at Monday's meeting of Croydon Council by Councillor Tim Pollard, the cabinet member for children, families and learning.
Cllr Pollard said the agreement, combined with potential income streams for the trust, would give the library an budget of around £285,000 a year, making it one of the borough's best-funded libraries.
The council will also hand over its 50 per cent share of the ownership of the building to Lambeth.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Pollard added: "Running this library as a joint venture between two boroughs worked for many years, and Croydon was determined to keep it open.
"Our new proposal to Lambeth not only achieves that goal, but also gives the community more direct control over how it's managed in the future.
"We've already been impressed by the quality of the business plan submitted by members of the local community, and Lambeth's agreement to our proposals bodes well for the prospects of this new enterprise."
Under the new arrangement it is likely that, while the deal comes into operation in April this year, Lambeth will work with the trust to ensure it beds in properly before full control is handed over in about a year.
Upper Norwood councillor Pat Ryan said: "We are delighted that the library is not going to close.
"Without the efforts of the community and the Labour party we would not be where we are today."
But he complained that the £75,000 promised by the council was £114,000 less than it had been under the original joint agreement, and also claimed this cut could lead to the loss of five jobs and hit the children's and reference library services.
Cllr Ryan said: "This level of funding from Croydon does not really give the trust a fighting chance."
He added that Labour had pledged that if it gained control of the council next May, match funding the Lambeth contribution to the budget would be a priority.