Further Response to the Library Restructure Staff Consultation

Further Response to the Library Restructure Staff Consultation

Call for Extension

 Barnet UNISON repeats the call for an extension of the Staff Consultation period, while acknowledging that the Council did not limit this to the legal minimum of 45 days. However, our members have not received all the information they have requested during the consultation period. Neither has Barnet UNISON to date received responses to all points we have raised.

Our members still await answers to questions regarding their pensions and other financial matters. Some members have not had the 1 to 1 meeting with their managers and HR to which they are entitled. This lack of information makes it difficult for our members to take the important decisions that the restructure will impose.

UNSON also has concerns over the nature of the 1 to 1 sessions. These should be conducted so colleagues can learn how the proposed restructure will affect them and in order to have their specific personal and wider concerns answered. However, questions are being put to Library staff by the Council regarding the rationale of the library cuts and they are being asked for alternatives to the library cuts. This is not the forum for the Council to ask individual members of staff these questions, many of whom will already find the 1 to 1 meetings a difficult and stressful process.

The Consultation needs to be extended until the Council has responded clearly and accurately to our members’ questions and concerns.

Why the Restructure should be cancelled

Barnet UNISON remains opposed to the Council’s intentions for the Library Service. The information we have received from the Council during the staff consultation has not convinced us that that the proposed restructure, if implemented, will provide a Library Service fit for purpose. Our dialogue with the Council and our own consultation with UNSON members leads us to conclude that library workers who remain in employment in the service face increased stress and workloads, unreasonable work patterns, and the prospect of eventual privatisation with subsequent attacks on pay and conditions.

Barnet UNISON repeats the call for the Library Restructure to be cancelled and plans for outsourcing (whether short or long term) of the Service to be withdrawn.

There should be a comprehensive review of the Library Service involving all stakeholders. This should aim at providing a Service fit for the 21st Century, in which accessibility, range of stock (printed and digital) and the knowledge and skill of professional librarians and other library workers is maximised. A major part of this review should be where the Library Service sits within the present internal organisation of the Council.

The Council declares that the cuts to the Library Service are driven by a need to save money. Yet the costs of the restructure are rising and it will take a number of years for this to be recouped from any financial savings made by the Library changes.

Instead of cutting the Library budget and spending nearly £8 million on its implementation UNISON calls on the Council to:

  • Take £2.162 million spread over four years from the Council’s reserves of £15m. The same amount would be paid into the reserves over three years 2017/18 – 2019/20 from the increased revenue from a council tax increase from 2017/18. The proposal would only reduce the reserves by a maximum of £1.156m in 2017/18.
  • Increase the Council tax by the maximum of 4% (instead of the planned 2%) in 2017-2018 and successive years with a £0.720m contribution for the three years 2017/18 to 2019/20to rebuild the reserves to the current level. This would mean an additional cost for Council tax payers of between 29 and 86 pence a week.

Proposed Library Staffing Structure

UNISON has a number of criticisms of the proposed Library organisation. The main concern is that a 46% cut to the staffing budget leaves a workforce which is too small to provide the Library Service that is needed by the people of the Borough. The Council’s belief that Library staff can be sufficiently replaced by self-service machines and volunteers is unjustified and insulting.

UNISON has supplied our comments on the proposed Job description for the proposed Library Service to the Council and to our members. The salient points of these follow.

 Library Manager

As the Library Service is to be reduced in staff numbers, space and resources there is no justification for an increase in the head of service’s salary.

A saving of between £3 970.07 to £6 751.71 per annum can be saved by retaining the current salary points for the library manager post. Service Development Managers

 The proposed posts are imbalanced. The Service Development Manager: Stocks and Services will directly line manage 7 staff and have indirect responsibility for 2.5 posts, while the Service Development Manager: Schools & Early Years will line manage 2.7 staff with indirect responsibilities for a further 1.8 staff.

These two post should be merged and the vacancy ring-fenced for suitable candidates. Having one Service Development Manager and not two could save between

 £49 956.69 to £56 266.15 per annum

 Service Development Librarian: Early Years

 UNISON believes that this is not a genuine Librarian role, and is being proposed to inflate the already low number of professional librarian posts within the Service. However, in some of the proposed Job Descriptions this post is referred to as Early Years Customer Service Officer. UNISON asks the Council to clarify which the job title they are proposing for this role and review the total Role Profile documents

 Heritage Development Officer

 UNISON believes that Local Studies and Archives should not be moved to the Operations division. The Operations and Customer Services Manager has and will have onerous responsibilities without this extra responsibility.

 The proposal also implies a demotion for the Heritage Development Officer who is currently line managed by the Business Development Manager (a senior position) and would place an unsuitable responsibility on the allocated Library Customer Service Manager.

 E-Systems Officer

 This post should not be line-managed by the Library Customer Service Manager: Stock and Services, nor should the post be expected to cover or be covered, by other posts in the proposed Stocks and Services Team. Library Customer Service Managers and Assistant Library Customer Service Manager

 UNISON questions why building responsibilities remains in the remit of these posts when the management of the Library building will fall outside the control of the library service.

 There are concerns over the feasibility of managers being able to run three different service provision modes on a multiplicity of sites.

 Library Customer Service Officers

 LCSOs are bearing the brunt of the present cuts. LCSOs face either losing their jobs or remaining in a post that will be even more burdensome than at present.

The small number of proposed LCSOs and the resulting work pattern for remaining post holders will mean an intensification of stress and workloads. It is likely that their entire working time will be spent on dealing with the difficult issues that cannot be resolved by volunteers or self-service machines. They will also be the target of the frustration felt by members of the public whose demands cannot be met by the reduced Library Service. The proposed working patterns will mean that part time staff will face increased financial burdens as travel and maintenance costs will have to be met over more working days. Those with caring responsibilities may not be able to combine these with remaining in employment. Barnet UNISON is still awaiting the staff Equalities Impact Assessment which should address these issues from the Council.

 Operations and Community Engagement Team Leader

It is inappropriate to combine an administrative post with responsibility for supporting and developing “Partnership Libraries” and volunteers. This requires professional librarian expertise or extensive on-site library experience.

This post should be removed from the proposed structure and the existing Senior Operations Officer position remain.

Other Savings

If UNISON’s recommendations regarding the Library Manager and Service Development Managers posts were followed. Between

£53 926.76 and £63 017.86 per annum could be saved.

This money could be used to offset cuts to staffing and pay for a further

 2.2 LCSO posts

Additional money could be saved through the more efficient use of stock management tools that would reduce the need to replace stock. This could result in savings of

 £150,000 for the first year. Combining the Senior Management reductions and the stock savings above, between

 £203 926.8 to £213 079 could be saved.

This could save up to 7.6 LCSO posts for a year

UNISON has asked the Council what reduction in the Libraries’ spending on utilities and the cleaning contract will be following the shrinkage of Library space if the restructure is put in place. The Council has responded that any savings made by this reduction will be offset by increases in utility payments. We have not received any response on the cleaning contract. Unless evidence is presented to the contrary UNISON does not believe the Council has seriously considered these potential savings.

 Staff Development

Considerable reference is made in the proposed Job Descriptions to “staff development” yet there is likely to be little scope for this if and when the new structure is put in place. The service will be so stretched due to the low number of staff, particularly on the front-line, that it will be near impossible to take Library workers away from their duties for learning, whether informal or formal.

The Council has admitted that the program to support library staff to gain a CILIP recognised Library qualification will not be reinstated. This effectively blocks the generally accepted career path for UK Library staff to Barnet workers. Barnet Library staff without such qualifications who are appointed to internal posts where this is usually a prerequisite elsewhere are unlikely to progress their career outside the borough. Barnet Council’s record of Library cuts also makes internal career progression less likely.


UNISON has not been convinced that the Council fully understands the risks presented by opening libraries without staff present.

During the 12 months between May 2015 and May 2016, emergency services were called to Barnet Libraries 29 times

Since the Libraries Consultation began on the 7th of July to present (2nd September) 8 incidents or accidents at Barnet Libraries have been reported to UNISON. These constituted:

5 verbal assaults and antisocial behaviour

1 theft

1 physical assault on a child

1 accident to a member of staff caused by badly maintained fittings and fixtures

Yet the Council claims to believe that CCTV cameras monitored from Cardiff, with a response time of up to 30 minutes is sufficient protection for people using the unstaffed libraries.

UNISON has requested but has yet to receive from the Council the following:

Updated Safeguarding policies for unstaffed libraries;

Confirmation that the Fire and Ambulance Services have been consulted regarding unstaffed libraries;

PEEPS (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans) models for use in unstaffed Libraries;

Unstaffed Libraries may also put staff at risk as it remains unclear how the different modes of opening hours will transit from one to the other.


Barnet UNISON continues its opposition to the Council’s planned Library cuts and resulting restructure. The proposed organisation and operating model if put in place for the Library Service will have an adverse result for both library staff and the public.


The Staff Consultation has itself been flawed in that required information has not been supplied to Barnet UNISON as a body nor to our members as individuals. However, our Branch remains open to ongoing discussion with the Council on the proviso that this is a

genuinely meaningful dialogue whose outcome has not been predetermined by either party.