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Croydon Council's decision to hand library services to John Laing to be scrutinised

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MOVES to hand the running of Croydon's libraries to John Laing Services will come under the spotlight at a meeting of the council's scrutiny and overview committee next week.

Laing was chosen as the council's preferred bidder in a private session of the corporate services committee last week. But the contract cannot be confirmed until after the scrutiny committee has decided whether to ask the full council to reconsider the decision.

The "call-in" of the decision has come from both Conservative and Labour councillors.

Councillor Steve Hollands, the Conservative chair of scrutiny, said: "We are asking for more detail about some of the specifications of the contract."

Because the financial details of what would be an eight-year contract with Laing are not being revealed, most of Wednesday's meeting will be conducted without press and public present.

But Labour's criticisms are understood to concentrate on the belief that the contract does not provide value for money.

Croydon received a bid from Greenwich Leisure, but it was ruled out because while it was lower than Laing's, it did not meet Croydon's criteria for HR, training and service development.

In addition to value for money the Labour referral is understood to also suggest that the decision to outsource directly conflicted with public consultation which urged the council to leave well alone.

Labour also claims the decision lacked transparency, that the Tories had no mandate to privatise the service and the contract does not specify if staff will be paid the London Living Wage.

A report being presented to the public part of the meeting on Wednesday will say the new contract will improve the level of provision while delivering savings and efficiencies and avoiding library closures.


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