THE collapse of the deal to privatise libraries has given the council the opportunity for a major rethink on how it runs its library service, an extraordinary meeting of the council was told on Monday. The meeting was called by the Labour opposition after the contract with John Laing Integrated Services (JLIS) to run the library service fell through. The council has decided to offer the three shortlisted bidders - JLIS, Wandsworth Council and Greenwich Leisure Ltd - the chance to submit new bids after JLIS made a last minute change to its original proposal, affecting staff pension arrangements. Wandsworth has already said it will not be making a new bid while JLIS has said it will be bidding again. At Monday's meeting, Labour put forward a motion expressing regret at the Tory administration's failed privatisation and proposing a cross-party working party to come up with a co-operative model for local libraries, giving them their own budgets and responsibilities. Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Labour's shadow cabinet member for culture and sport, told the meeting privatising the libraries would create a new level bureaucracy and result in a lower level of service. He said: "We need to empower and support frontline staff to deliver services to our residents at an affordable price." A cross-party approach to delivering co-operative libraries would be a new beginning for the council and result in a local service to meet local aspirations," he added. Labour leader, Councillor Tony Newman, claimed the Tories had no mandate to proceed with library privatisation and his group was now offering a positive and practical way forward. He said: "We have a chance to support a motion to start again and open up constructive discussions across the political divide." But the Labour idea was dismissed out of hand by Councillor Tim Pollard, the council's cabinet member for children, families and learners, who described the idea of handing running 13 different libraries as co-operative ventures as untested, uncosted, confused and inefficient. He said: "I can find no evidence that the co-operative idea has anywhere been translated into a reality." He claimed that the concept of 13 libraries running individually would restrict residents' access to overall services. It would, he said,start inefficiently and become more so. The Labour motion was lost by 35 votes to 30.
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