Four of Croydon’s libraries could close according to new proposals put forward by the council.

The council states the closure is based on the poor post-Covid slump in visitation as well as the overall costs of running all 13 centres in the borough.

Bradmore Green near Coulsdon, Broad Green, Sanderstead, and Shirley have been identified as the four that could close.

Croydon Council said the proposal "is based on analysis of the buildings including visitor numbers, size and condition of the buildings, the size and needs of the communities they serve, and running costs".

The local authority said their closure will allow them to focus on providing extended hours and better outreach services for their remaining nine centres.

Your Local Guardian: Broad Green library was purpose built and opened in 1998 (Credit: Harrison Galliven/LDRS)Broad Green library was purpose built and opened in 1998 (Credit: Harrison Galliven/LDRS)

They also specified that six libraries (Central, Ashburton, Thornton Heath, Norbury, Selsdon and Coulsdon) could return to opening five to six days a week as a result of the changes.

In an exclusive interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Mayor Jason Perry said: “Essentially we’ve got a failing service, it’s not delivering what it should be delivering despite the best efforts of our staff to make the best of a difficult situation.”

The local authority has insisted no jobs will be lost from this "remodelling" and has suggested librarians who currently work in the affected locations may be able to transfer.

Your Local Guardian: Broad Green Library has seen successive reductions in opening hours since Covid (Credit: Harrison Galliven/LDRS)Broad Green Library has seen successive reductions in opening hours since Covid (Credit: Harrison Galliven/LDRS)

They have also maintained that all the money saved on building costs will be spent on improving the nine remaining sites.

Cllr Perry added: “This is not about cutting the funding, what we are actually proposing is an increase in staff and in order to do that we are proposing to reduce our buildings.

"The four libraries that have come forward for closure are generally smaller libraries with much lower usage rates mirroring less than two per cent of the total of the borough.”

All but one of Croydon’s libraries have significantly shortened their hours of operation since the onset of Covid in 2020.

This downscaling is also the result of the stringent spending constraints imposed on the borough following its bankruptcy.

Your Local Guardian: Peter Underwood believes the decision to sell the closed libraries is short-sighted (Credit: Peter Underwood)Peter Underwood believes the decision to sell the closed libraries is short-sighted (Credit: Peter Underwood)

Some libraries have had their hours reduced from six days a week to as little as two.

Broad Green, which sits in a purpose-built space halfway between Croydon and Thornton Heath, is one such library.

Broad Green is now only open two days a week, down from three only a year ago.

While council research shows it has slightly increased its visitation numbers since a year ago, the number of visitors in 2022-23 at 11,315 pales in comparison to the 2018-19 number of 46,364.

Despite these numbers, the library still plays host to a number of community groups and provides book and IT services to one of Croydon’s poorest wards.

When the LDRS visited Broad Green, the library was hosting a disability outreach group and had a handful of people reading and using the computers.

Speaking to the LDRS outside the library, one mother-of-two said: “It’s not good news, it’s a nice place to go in the day and many rely on places like these. I have to admit though, it never seems that busy any more and it’s never open when I need it.”

This echoed the reality of what was seen inside the library, which was relatively empty on one of its two opening days.

One librarian told the LDRS: “Because we’re only open two days a week, we are quite restricted.”

Dr Manju Shahul-Hameed, Labour councillor for the Broad Green ward, told the LDRS: “Every Monday and Thursday, a community organisation utilises the library space to provide essential training programs and run healthy lifestyle initiatives, including yoga sessions.

"This organisation has become an invaluable resource for our community, offering opportunities for skill development and promoting wellbeing.

“The potential closure of the library would undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on the accessibility of such crucial community programs.

"It’s disheartening to consider the negative repercussions this decision could have, especially for the vulnerable populations in our community who rely on these services.”

Fellow ward councillor Stuart Collins added: “I opened the library and fought against the Conservatives closing it in 2012, so I’m really upset to hear this vital community library is again being threatened by the current Conservative-run council. Every alternative should be explored before closing it.”

The decision to close libraries was previously put forward by the then Labour-led administration in 2022, before a decision was made to reduce opening hours across the board instead.

While this has meant that all 13 libraries have remained open, their visitor numbers have dropped drastically as a result.

The decision, therefore, to partly base the plans to close the four libraries on recent visitor numbers has raised concern from a number of people, who have dubbed it a "self-fulfilling prophecy" and a "short-sighted measure".

Peter Underwood, who is running to be the Green Party’s candidate for the Croydon and Sutton constituency in this year’s London Assembly election, has been vocal in his concern over the proposed closures.

Speaking to the LDRS, he said: “We’ve got a general election coming up in the next 12 months, and if you believe the polling, the government is going to change.

“There’s a possibility there might be more money coming back into public services in which case, instead of a library opening two days a week, it might be able to open five days a week.

“My worry with the current position is that they are not only reducing the service, but they’re also preventing it from ever being restored.

"Once it’s gone it’s gone and it prevents anyone having a better set of services in the future.”

Outside of the four closures, the proposals suggest changes to three smaller libraries that receive low visitor numbers but are nonetheless vital for their area.

These three libraries are Purley, New Addington and South Norwood.

The council has said the current set-up in these libraries is not working and instead is proposing to introduce community hubs in an attempt to bolster visitor numbers.

In their words, this is "where a library would be available alongside other services such as family and adult education services and community partnerships".

However, Underwood seemed sceptical about this remodelling, saying: “They say they are going to replace it with a community hub, but why not keep the library and move the community hub services in there? Somebody once said, unkindly, that a community hub is just a coffee shop with a bookshelf. It is not a library.”

He added: “There are huge socio-economic reasons why people use libraries, as was raised last winter with the warm hubs idea where people would go and sit and read in a library for a few hours and keep warm. If you have the facility, you can do a lot more with it than if you didn’t.”

Croydon Council has said the 10-week consultation on the future of the libraries will follow next Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

They have also encouraged residents to "have their say on the proposals and share their ideas for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the library service".