This morning's news that Carillion has gone into liquidation causes me to reflection what a close shave Brent has had with its library service. Brent Council considered and rejected the option of privatising Brent Libraries when I was lead member. The option came up again later, and was actually included provisionally in the budget only to be withdrawn.
Ealing and Harrow are now considering whether to carry on with the contract for another five years. They are likely to do so, if only because they would have to pay the contractor off if they terminate the contract. Incidentally, I wonder whether Hounslow had to give a pay out to Carillion when Hounslow libraries went back in house.
The Harrow and Ealing reports predate this morning's news, but I suspect because of the termination payment the contract will be renewed and then perhaps terminated by mutual agreement subsequently. I say that as there is bound to be a huge restructuring at all the businesses that Carillion is involved in. As libraries are fairly marginal, that activity may be terminated altogether and just handed back to the Councils. That would at least be likely to safeguard those peoples' jobs.
I take it the government felt unable to do a bail out because of the controversy from Chris Grayling decision to waste vast amount of taxpayers' money on the East Coast Main line. There was no longer sufficent political cover to nationalise losses and privatise profits. Hopefully, this will lead to a further reflection over whether certain kinds of services can ever be operated privately without an implicit taxpayers' guarantee.
Moving back to libraries, London is left with a series of mainly publicly run services. The main exceptions are those run by Greenwich Leisure, and the one Borough (Redbridge) run by a mutual. In other words, the once fashionable idea of privatising library services as a means of cost saving seems to have come to naught. This doesn't bother me as the supposed benefits of libraries privation listed in the Harrow report (paragraph 2.6) strike me as similar to those already implement in Brent under its Libraries Transformation.
That leaves community managed library services as the final form of library privatisation open to Brent Council. This is such a slow motion and piecemeal affair that it may not strike many people as privatisation at all. So far, the biggest dollop of taxpayers' money is apparently a "one off" grant of £75k to FKRL preceded by a few smaller grants. The "Preston Library" group is still hoping to hit the jackpot by being effectively given the building for nothing, although I think any councillors signing such a deal off would expose themselves charges of corruption.
I see that Croydon has taken its libraries back in house leaving Carillion with just Harrow and Ealing.