Accusations of illegality and deception were hurled at Croydon Council at a volatile public meeting held over the future of an under threat library.

Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for culture and sport, came under a barrage of complaints at the meeting, at the Salvation Army Hall, in Upper Norwood on Wednesday, May 16.

About 230 campaigners packed into the hall to protest against the dissolution of an agreement between Lambeth and Croydon councils to jointly fund and operate the Upper Norwood Library.

Generations young and old were represented at the meeting, with four-year-old Finlay Wilkie-Jones reading a letter to Croydon Council’s leader Mike Fisher pleading for the library to remain open.

He said: “Dear Mr Fisher, please don’t close the library. I like to borrow books and DVDs. I will be very sad if you close the library.”

Coun Bashford laid the blame on Lambeth accusing them of failing to attend two annual general meetings, paralysing the joint management committee.

She said: "As a council we have a responsibility to make sure council tax money is being used appropriately.

"We have been in communication with Lambeth to find a way forward but it is clear this will not be a joint agreement as in the past."

John Payne, from the Crystal Palace Community Association, launched a scathing attack on the behaviour of Croydon Council accusing it of creating this situation.

He said: “The 112-year-old Upper Norwood Joint Library has survived two world wars, the great depression the three day working week and numerous recessions but now faces its greatest threat from Croydon Council flouting its legal agreement.”

He said the appointment of non-local councillors to the committee in 2010/11 began the dispute and was against an agreement signed by both councils in 2006.

He said the decision to dissolve the joint board is illegal and can only be done the secretary of state, and called on the dispute to be taken to an independent arbiter.

Croydon Council has creating a consultation document online and available in the library, offering four options for the service.

The meeting heard about 600 copies had been filled out, with the deadline on May 20, but many residents complained the consultation was confusing and skewed.

Options include continuing to fund the library at the existing level, reducing funding to the library, withdrawing funding, with money then used in improve other library services in the area and finally withdrawing funding and using the savings to protect other council services.

The meeting also heard from Val Shawcross, GLA member for Lambeth, who said Lambeth Council had promised to continue funding the library and was calling on Croydon to honour the agreement.

She said: “I want to hear a clear commitment to this library for the coming decades.

Coun Bashford was unable to offer the commitment, reiterating the consultation was about looking at the future of the service, but that there would be no agreement with Lambeth.

She came under further attack from resident Shelagh McDonough, who accused her of making her feel worthless at previous meetings over the running of the library.

She said: “I attended those two meetings. You treated us with contempt. I don’t expect elected members of Croydon Council to behaviour in such a way that made me fell less than worthless.”

Coun Bashford apologised and said she never intended to offend anyone during public meetings.

Consultation documents can be found by visiting or it can be picked up from libraries and council offices.