Robot Wars: Barnet Libraries on the Eve of Destruction

Humans not Machines

What was once one of the finest public Library Services in the UK is about to undergo a transformation that will see it left in ruins. In 2002 Barnet won a Beacon Council award for libraries as a community resource, but since then successive restructures have seen staff numbers and service points cut. The decline will reach an all-time low in April 2017 when the newly restructured Library Service comes into operation.

In April the Library workforce will be reduced by almost half. The Council alleges that their skills, knowledge and experience can be replaced by volunteers and self-service machines.

Four Libraries will be handed over to charities and resident groups to be opened for only fifteen hours each a week.  The people of Mill Hill, South Friern, East Barnet and Childs Hill will lose direct access to a professional library service.

The Council will give these partnership libraries between £352,000 and £384,000 in grants for the first 3 years, money that would be better spent providing a service staffed and run by librarians and other real library workers.

The remaining Council-run libraries will have staff present only for a few hours on most days. Some days will be completely unstaffed. Under 15-years olds not accompanied by an adult will be unable to enter the libraries during these hours.

The Council seems unconcerned how this will affect the public, although aware that;

“The reduction in staffed opening hours will mean less support available in the library to get advice, information and to utilise the resources in the library. This will have the biggest impact on those who may require support to make best use of services at static library sites or are less able, or confident at using libraries without library staff support

 Barnet Future Library Service 5.9.10)

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s30694/Barnets%20future%20Library%20Service.pdf

The Council claims that CCTV monitored from a control centre in Cardiff will be sufficient to maintain the safety and security of people using the Libraries. Barnet UNISON disagreed, and continues to disagree, with the Council, citing incidents of anti-social behaviour, physical and verbal abuse and theft that have occurred in libraries, the number of which would be far higher if library staff had not been on site to prevent them.  Barnet UNISON remains unconvinced that the emergency response systems the Council plans for unstaffed hours will be sufficient.

Libraries are also to be reduced in size by up to 90%, as space is hived off to be offered for rent to commercial and community groups. This will leave inadequate study, computer and events space in most libraries. With only a few days to go before the restructure the Council has confirmed only one organisation interested in renting.  Since 2014, when this plan was first announced, Barnet UNISON has been pointing out that the Council’s estimated rental income of £546,000 by 2019/20 is very unlikely to be met

The Council claims it is being forced into reducing Library staff numbers, space and direct control of all libraries because of the need to save £1.6 million from the Libraries Budget by 2020. But the Council allocated over £6.5 million to implement the changes. In December the Council made known it was allocating over £14 million for “library procurements”. On the 8th December 2016 Barnet UNISON asked the Council a number of questions regarding this “procurement” spend. Because the Council did not answer our questions in full we resubmitted them on the 16th January 2017 and on the 14th February 2017. We still await a meaningful response

This is a lot of money to be spent on reducing the assets, efficiency, accessibility and safety of a service.

Barnet UNISON and the Save Barnet Library Campaigns have argued with the Council for over two and a half years that a machine and volunteer dependant Library Service would lead to a decline. The Council’s own consultations with the public found little if any support for their plan.  But the Council has consistently failed to address these arguments instead repeating the mantra that no libraries in Barnet were being closed and that opening hours were being extended. But when the new Library structure is implemented in April opening hours will not be any longer than at present.  The promised extended opening hours are now being postponed until the autumn. Only five of the Council-run libraries will be open while building work to reduce library space is carried out and the four “partnership” Libraries will stagger their hours between them.

In April the people of Barnet will find their library service much reduced. It is likely that many current and potential library users, particularly children, will find Barnet Libraries hard to access, information and advice difficult to come by, containing very little study space and the range of stock and services a shadow of what was once on offer.  This is likely to lead to a decline in use and an excuse by the Council to close Libraries

Our members working in libraries will continue as they have done in the past to try and provide the best service they can. But their low numbers, limited staffed opening hours and lack of space will be insurmountable barriers. Barnet UNISON will strongly oppose any attempts by the Council to place blame on library staff for the decline in the Service and any attempt to shift responsibility for any harm resulting from unstaffed opening hours.

Our members will be the first in line to face the frustration of the public with the restructured Library Service, but those responsible are the present ruling administration of the Council. Public dissatisfaction with the Library Service is likely to grow and may well have an influence on how Barnet residents vote in the next local elections.

Barnet UNISON will continue to campaign for a restoration of the Library Service. The people of Barnet need and deserve a professional library service staffed by real library workers.

Barnet UNISON call on the Council to stop the restructure and work constructively with those people working in and using libraries and with the wider community to build a Library Service that can once again rightly claim to be one of the best in the UK.

Further details on the Library changes and the Barnet UNISON’s campaign to stop it can be found on.

http://www.barnetunison.me.uk/wp/?s=libraries

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Giving With One Hand And Taking With The Other”

Barnet Council Giving With One Hand And Taking With The Other

On January 23rd Barnet Council’s Adults and Safeguarding Committee voted to make cuts of £458,373 to Early Intervention and Prevention Services. These include ending the funding  to Inclusion Barnet (a local charity) to provide peer support planning and brokerage, which the Council claim will save £73, 261.5.

The Council’s reason for this is that there is lower level of use for this service than anticipated, and that this work can be done by Barnet Social workers.

This is despite  83% of those consulted, disagreeing with the move.

Yet this is the same Council that is giving Inclusion Barnet between £25, 000 and £35,000  a year to take over  the running of  East Barnet and South Friern Libraries, despite opposition to this voiced in consultations, petitions  and protests since 2014.

Barnet Council are  withdrawing funding to a  local charity with the necessary expertise. to provide a service well regarded by the public. Yet are giving this organisation, that has no experience of running libraries, funding to replace experienced and qualified library workers. Inclusion Barnet are losing funding to provide a service because of “low level of use” but the libraries the Charity will run will only be open 15 hours a week which will certainly reduce level of use.

There is little logic in this decision but reason is something not to be expected from an administration hell-bent on cutting services and reducing the quality of  life of  the people of Barnet.

 

Barnet Library Workers on Strike

Barnet library workers on strike

“Our members in Barnet have been at the sharp end, with the council outsourcing anything it can. The spirit shown by our library workers today is a tremendous example to us all.”

 

Dave Prentis UNISON General Secretary                                                                                                                                                                 

Dave Prentis takes support and solidarity to north London picket line in strike over plans to outsource library service

General secretary Dave Prentis with striking members and the Barnet UNISON banner outside The Library, in Barnet, north London

General secretary Dave Prentis took the union’s support and solidarity to striking library workers on the picket line in north London this morning.

“You have got our full support and if you need any help just let us know”  

 

Mr Prentis speaking to the #BarnetStrikers

 

The UNISON members were on the third day of their strike over Barnet council’s plans to outsource the borough’s library service.

“Council services up and down the country are under attack as the Tory government in Westminster piles still more cuts on five years of austerity,”

said Mr Prentis.

“Our members in Barnet have been at the sharp end, with the council outsourcing anything it can. The spirit shown by our library workers today is a tremendous example to us all.”

unison.barnet-library-workers-on-strike

#BarnetStrikers

#SaveBarnetLibraries

Standing up to the “easycouncil”

Standing up to the “easycouncil”

“The spirit shown by our library workers today is a tremendous example to us all – and we will stand by them as they fight for their jobs.”
Dave Prentis,
UNISON General Secretary

The assault on our public services in recent years has fallen hardest on local government – with libraries particularly under fire.

And there are few areas that have suffered greater attacks from their local authority than Barnet.

“You have got our full support and if you need any help just let us know”                                                                                                             Mr Prentis speaking to the #BarnetStrikers

So I was proud to be on the picket line alongside library workers today, taking the fight to the so-called Tory “easycouncil” and showing local people how severe and damaging the cuts to their local services really are.

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I spoke with activists Fiona Turnbull and Hugh Jordan (Barnet UNISON’s libraries convenor) about the sheer scale of job losses and service cuts being inflicted on an already bare bones service. At Chipping Barnet (where we met this morning) the library will lose 33 staff hours (down from 56.5 hours at present). Other libraries will lose more than half of their size and be reduced to volunteer only provision.

Services lost or weakened. Jobs cuts. And those in the community who need them most left to suffer.

“Our members in Barnet have been at the sharp end, with the council outsourcing anything it can. The spirit shown by our library workers today is a tremendous example to us all – and we will stand by them as they fight for their jobs.”

Dave Prentis,

UNISON General Secretary

unison – standing-up-to-the-easycouncil

#BarnetStrikers

#SaveBarnetLibraries

Defend the 10 libraries campaign – Message of Solidarity

‘Defend the 10 libraries campaign in Lambeth sends solidarity to all the library workers taking strike action this week to stop the destruction of the library service in Barnet.

With cuts, closures and privatisation of our library services up and down the country we know how important it is to stand up and fightback. Your action will not only help in the battle to stop Barnet’s plans but will also give heart to everyone who wants to see an end to the ongoing devastation of vital library services.

We wish you all the best! Your fight is our fight!’

Michaela Loebner  Defend the 10, Lambeth

save-libraries-march-mar-2016-01

 

Solidarity Message from Barnet Trades Union Council

 

To our brothers and sisters in Barnet UNISON – your fight against the privatisation and decimation of Public Services by the ideologically driven Tories in our Borough is an inspiration to the Trade Union movement.

Libraries are a beacon of any civilised society, providing a safe environment where generations of our community have benefited from this vital social service, helping to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots. 

Libraries are spaces where people of all ages and all backgrounds can practice lifelong learning, something that the Tories in our Borough well understand and find distasteful.

We stand with you in your fight against this attack on our community.

In Solidarity,

Barnet Trades Union Council

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Message of Solidarity from Barnet Alliance For Public Services & Save Barnet Libraries

“BAPS and Save Barnet Libraries support your strike action and hope to see you on the picket line. As you know our two groups have been campaigning to save the library service since the first dreadful plans were put forward. We understand the value of trained professionals, and appreciate that it is your skills and experience that have provided the high-quality service that we have enjoyed and depended on. We deplore the cuts in space, material resources and, above all, in your jobs.

We are still working on the campaign and stand shoulder to shoulder with you.”

In solidarity.

BAPS and SBL

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Message of Solidarity from Barnet NUT

A message of support to library workers organised by Barnet Unison

Barnet NUT gives 100% support to the forthcoming strike by our fellow workers in Barnet Libraries. Of course we extend this support in the spirit of worker solidarity – an injury to one is an injury to all. But we also support you because of the valuable work you do in performing such an important public sector and public education role for all the residents of Barnet. Without your contribution our residents and our children will be so much the poorer.

We salute you for standing up for your rights and ours.

For your livelihood and ours. For your community and ours.

Solidarity.

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