'Three expressions of interest'
Update 2: The council has said that meetings with “bidders” who’ve expressed an interest in running the still closed Cobbett Road library are taking place this month, and it's hoped a new organisation could be running it “by the end of the calendar year”.
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As reported, Southampton City Council ran a procurement process, initiated by the previous Conservative administration, inviting interested parties “to apply for a long-term arrangement, based from Cobbett Road to provide a library and community offer suitable to the asset and the community”.
The deadline for applications was April 5.
Cllr Toqeer Kataria, the current (Labour) council’s cabinet member for communities and customer engagement, told bitternepark.info:
“Meetings with the bidders are taking place this month and this will be followed by due diligence checks and a recommendation to myself as Cabinet Member by the end of July. Assuming this proceeds as planned only then we would hope by the end of the calendar year a new organisation will be in situ and delivering services in the local community.”
The Friends of Cobbett Road Library welcomed the news, commenting: "The Friends were very disappointed that the preferred bidder could not be decided by the Council's planned date of May 17. We welcome the news that the bid process is moving again, and hope that the Library can open long before the reported target of the end of 2022."
Cobbett became one of a clutch of city ‘community libraries’ run by not-for-profits and volunteers from 2016 because council funding was withdrawn.
The previous operator, Social Care in Action, pulled out of running it, particularly citing challenges caused by coronavirus restrictions, and it’s been shut as a library since the end of January 2020.
Update 28/6/22: In a further update from Cllr Kataria, he has said the council "has received three expressions of interest to take over the library building and its services".
He confirmed: "This formal procurement process is continuing during July while we are seeking clarifications to ensure the bidders’ proposals are deliverable, before appointing a new operator. We hope the library will be open and delivering valuable services by the end of this year.”
Updated:24/6/22: Comment from FoCRL added; minor edits for clarity
28/6/22: Further comment added from cabinet member, above.