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More protest as Lewisham libraries decision looms
A COMPUTER recycling company is set to take over three libraries - while the future of another remains up in the air.
Lewisham Council officers have recommended that Eco Computer Systems takes over the Sydenham, Crofton Park and Grove Park libraries after they close on May 28.
But the bidding process to run the facilities has been slammed as “a load of old rubbish” by campaigners, with plans to protest outside the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on May 18.
The council is closing the three libraries, along with ones in New Cross and Blackheath Village, as part of a massive £88m cuts package - with a decision on their future to be made at a Mayor and Cabinet meeting tomorrow.
Campaigner Peter Richardson, who helped organise the DCMS protest, said: “The government have a lawful requirement to intervene.
“We’ve sent letters about this to virtually everybody except President Obama.”
He added: “The bidding process was laughable really.”
Despite 13 organisations initially expressing interest, only four groups made formal bids to take over one or more of the facilities. And of these, only the Eco Computer Systems bid was deemed by officers to be “of an acceptable standard”.
The report leaves open the future of New Cross Library, which could now be used for “an alternative community use”.
But the report says the building will still close on May 28 while officers “explore options for providing community library facilities in the locality either from the existing premises or elsewhere”.
James Holland who organised a petition against the closure of New Cross library said: “I think the very least the council could do is say they’ll keep New Cross open as it is for another six months.”
He added: “This is a problem of the council’s own making. The bidding process was a load of old rubbish.
“In the end they got one bid which was fairly acceptable but even that was not good enough to get all four libraries.”
Blackheath Village Library, whose premises are not owned by the council, is set to be run by the Age Exchange charity and will be housed in its new £500,000 reminiscence centre - due to be completed by the end of 2012.
In the meantime, the charity will run a smaller, transitional library, due to open on June 6.
Eco Computer Systems, run by Darren Taylor, quickly emerged as the firm favourite to take over the libraries earlier this year.
The company, which also provides IT training, already runs a facility at Pepys Resource Centre in Deptford and, at a public meeting last month had the most detailed plans.
It had bid to run the New Cross facility as well, but officers have concluded that taking on that building’s internal repairing lease and service charge, could cause the company financial problems.
Funding for the libraries is expected to come from computer recycling, a coffee shop and sponsorship from housing associations.