A NOT-FOR-PROFIT trust could run the borough’s libraries with the aim of improving the service and increasing visitor numbers.
Harrow Council and Ealing Council’s Labour administrations are proposing to jointly outsource the day-to-day management of their libraries to John Laing Integrated Services, which already oversees Hounslow’s libraries, from September 1.
The branding, building and book budgets will remain the same and councillors will need to agree any big changes such as alterations to opening hours or staff numbers.
Councillor David Perry, the portfolio holder for community and cultural services and Labour group leader, said: “I don’t need to talk about the financial situation facing the council and the challenging saving targets we have, but protecting the libraries was paramount.”
Earlier this year the council and Ealing Council invited expressions of interest from companies and charities to manage Harrow and Ealing’s libraries with equal emphasis on cost and quality.
Mr Perry said: “We were not just focusing on savings. It’s about maintaining the service and improving standards. By being more active within the community, they can increase visitor numbers by 2 per cent each year and increase participation with users and try to recruit volunteers.
“Councillors will, however, continue to have democratic input on key decisions. We will meet the contractor on a quarterly basis to talk about what’s going well, and not so well.”
Mr Perry said the council could save £600,000 a year by outsourcing the libraries and the not-for-profit trust would be able to reduce its expenditure through merging payroll and human resources departments, sharing IT systems and, unlike the council, enjoying business rate relief on the library buildings.
The contract would run for five years with the option to extend for a further five.
Conservative group leader councillor Susan Hall said: “Councillor Perry can try to defend his decision all he wants, but the fact is that he and Labour have broken their promise not to privatise Harrow’s libraries.
“Labour said three times in their manifesto that they wouldn’t do it, and now they have. I’m also very concerned at the length of the contract. Labour’s decision will essentially bind future administrations to the deals they’ve made.”
The cabinet will vote on the proposal next week Thursday, while Ealing Council’s cabinet is on May 21.
What do you think? Contact Ian Proctor on 07795 811 230 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org