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Bromley Labour leader Angela Wilkins defends Unite’s campaign to stop the privatisation of Bromley’s libraries

PUBLISHED: 16:45 13 March 2017

Bromley Central library

Bromley Central library

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Unite claim that the only organisation left bidding to run the libraries is Greenwich Leisure Limited

Labour leader Angela WilkinsLabour leader Angela Wilkins

Bromley Labour leader Angela Wilkins has defended union Unite’s campaign to stop the privatisation of Bromley’s libraries, after it was announced that building firm Carillion have withdrawn its bid to run the libraries on behalf of the council.

The annoucement follows a concerted campaign by concerned residents to defend Bromley’s library service which has also seen Bromley Community Link withdraw its bid to run Bromley libraries with volunteers.

According to Unite, the only bidder left is Greenwich Leisure Limited, although Bromley Council declined to confirm this.

Commenting Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “This is a significant step in our campaign to keep Bromley’s well-loved libraries out of the clutches of privateers looking to make a quick buck out of an essential service.

“Bromley’s libraries are well used by people from all walks of life right across the borough. An essential point of social contact they provide learning and enjoyment for all ages.

“We will not rest until Bromley council ditches its privatisation plans and will now focus our campaign on the remaining bidder which we believe is Greenwich Leisure Limited.”

Showing support for the campaign, Cllr Wilkins, said: “Labour councillors have opposed privatising our libraries since day one. Of all the council’s services, I have always said I cannot see how a private company can make a profit out of this one without service levels being lowered, so I am not surprised that only GLL remain in the frame.

“Libraries are a huge community resource and not just a book-lending service and we need to keep them open. In fact the council is legally obliged to provide them, so Labour will be fighting any plans to close or run-down these facilities if the privatisation falls through.

“As to the allegation that Unite have ‘hounded away’ potential contractors, I have seen no hard evidence of this. I am aware of leaflet campaigns and demonstrations at some of the libraries and can’t see anything wrong with this - it’s what lots of organisations do after all.”

But Peter Morgan, executive Bromley councillor for renewal and recreation has said getting a new operator for the libraries aims to protect them.

“We must look for the best way of providing services generally and this whole process is actually about protecting the library service that we have today,” he explained.

“The council is continuing to evaluate the tender submissions it has received and when we are in a position to potentially award this important contract, this decision will be made in the usual way, with the decision continued to be anticipated later this year, most probably in the summer.

“We cannot discuss the details of the tenders as this is confidential but it is important to note that tenderers were asked to tender on the basis of the existing library service. The Council routinely provides many of its services using contractors with the Council remaining in full control of these services and it will be no different with the library service.”

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