Barnet UNISON Press Release: 11 September 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Join the original members of Lesbians & Gays Support Miners, Durham Miners Union, Barnet UNISON on #Kids4Libraries march
Support #Kids4Libraries march 12 September
On a new civil rights battleground original members of Lesbians & Gays Support Miners, Durham Miners Union and Barnet UNISON are uniting with scores of children demanding their right to read:
Children’s March for Libraries
EAST FINCHLEY LIBRARY
226 EAST FINCHLEY HIGH ROAD
LONDON N2 9BB
Nicola Field and Jonathan Blake, two of the original members of LGSM which inspired the critically-acclaimed film, Pride, will be joining hundreds of school children and teenagers who are standing up for their right to professionally-run libraries this Saturday, carrying the iconic banner of the original struggle. The march starts at East Finchley Library which is used in droves by kids and teens in increasing numbers but which is under threat of closure or de-professionalisation by the London Borough of Barnet. Barnet is home to more children per capita than anywhere in the UK and has embarked on a self-described ‘stark’ plan to close or remove professional staff (68% cut in the staff) from as many as seven libraries, all with rapidly increasing growth of use by young people.
In advance of the crucial vote on libraries on 12th October at Hendon Town Hall at 7pm, the non-partisan, pro-literacy Save Barnet Libraries campaign has received over 10,000 signatures of support.
In addition to a major turnout of children, acclaimed members of the creative community are rallying to express their strength of feeling about this vital public service under attack. Bafta-award winning actress Rebecca Front, novelist Alan Gibbons and award-winning performer and poet Joshua Seigal will also speak and then march with the children to Finchley Church End Library where they will be joined by a brass band and a big red bus (11.15am Church End Library, 24 Hendon Lane N3 1TR). Footballer and author Dan Freedman will be amongst more speakers at Church End before the march continues to North Finchley Library.
Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘First I am want to add my apologies to the event and the huge admiration for Barnet UNISON. I want to send a message of support to John Burgess & the Save Barnet Libraries campaign for their tireless & inspirational community campaign to protect their local Library service. I would encourage everyone to join their Kids4Libraries this Saturday 12 September. Barnet Council are determined to outsource all of their services I salute Barnet UNISON & the community campaign for their ongoing fight to defend public services.’
Nicola Field comments about LGSM: ‘I saw workers’ rights and sexual liberation as parts of the same fight. Thatcher was out to smash the National Union of Mineworkers. She was also exploiting the Aids pandemic to demonise the increasingly confident gay movement. She, like Cameron now, wanted to create hatred and divisions in order to distract people from the cuts, privatisation and social deprivation. Today denying young people their right to read and study in a safe and non-judgemental setting is another uncaring assault on fairness and progress.’
Davey Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association said: ‘I’m proud to bring our branch banner to march through Thatcher’s former constituency with Barnet UNISON a fighting trade union branch leading the way in the fight against austerity. As we fought the pit closures and the devastation that would have and has had on our own communities, their community campaign is fighting Library closures and proposed sacking of 68% of the staff. Solidarity to Barnet UNISON and solidarity to Save Barnet Libraries campaign.’
John Mc Donnell MP: ‘I send my support for this magnificent campaign that has brought UNISON and the local community together to protect vitally needed public services in Barnet. This campaign is an example of how to mobilise the whole community effectively in such a good cause.’
UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said: ‘The proposed sacking of 68 % of the workforce is clear evidence that current proposals will mean the end of a comprehensive public library service for the residents of Barnet. It is impossible to view these disgraceful proposals in isolation from what is going on across Council services across the UK. Councils have had their government funding cut by 40% since 2010, which is a deliberate attack on local democracy and public services. Our march is attempting to raise awareness within our community and wider afield of what is at stake. Our message to the Council is think again, Libraries are beacons within our communities which must be allowed to flourish.’
Notes to Editors.
Contact details: John Burgess Barnet UNISON on 07738389569 or 0208 359 2088 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Council’s proposals include;
· Library staffing budget to be cut by up to 68%. It likely that even staffed libraries will not have enough workers available to maintain a sufficient level of service.
· Two or six Libraries to close
· Most remaining Libraries to be reduced in size. They could no longer house adequate book collections, or a sufficient number of computers for the public to use. There will not be enough study space to meet the needs of students.
· Libraries will be privatised or run by a “Mutual”. There will be no guarantee they will be run for public good and not for profit.
· Libraries will be unstaffed for two thirds of their opening times. Library users will have to rely on self-service machines and volunteers (if any can be found) for help. As a result of not having staff on site, children will be denied entry to the libraries for most of the day.
Barnet UNISON & Library Campaigners note that libraries are a vital source of reference and fiction material for the LGBT community, especially young LGBT people with teen fiction booming for this audience. Removing access to books with either closure or expecting unpaid, untrained ‘staff’ to do the jobs of sacked professional librarians has raised concerns about a failure to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service as required by the Libraries and Museums Act (1964) as well as failure to consider duties under the Equalities Act (2010).
The libraries Barnet has targeted for closure are experiencing an average of a 20% increase in use by children. Barnet announced its plans following a 1% council tax cut prior to the election.
Earlier this year the Department for Culture Media and Sport reported that 70% of all children used a library last year. Data from Nielsen for the publishing industry indicates that libraries are vital for both children and teens as they discover and explore books, despite the rise of social media.
Kids4Libraires march video