Sunday, 26 October 2014

Barnet UNISON response to outsourcing Library proposal

Barnet Libraries are under attack again, below is Barnet Unison's response to the onslaught;
1. Barnet UNISON strongly recommends that in-house provision is included in each option.
2. It is essential that a comprehensive risk register is compiled immediately and forms part of the public and staff consultation so that the risks can be fully understood in assessing the options.
3. Assurances are required to both the public and staff that the wider role of volunteers is only a short-term measure.
4. A full equality impact assessment is undertaken to identify the effect of the Library options and the operational proposals"
For full report see;

Friday, 24 October 2014

London libraries news; Barnet, Bexley, Greenwich & Wandsworth.

There's been lots happening to London libraries recently;


Earlier this week firm proposals emerged that could lead to the further decimation of the library service in the Borough.
The 3 options put forward by the council are;

"Option one proposes keeping the same number of libraries open. The service would focus on four key libraries – Chipping Barnet, Hendon, and the new libraries in Church End and Colindale.
Other library buildings would be reduced in size, to around 540sq ft on average, and space would be let out for commercial use. The report states it is “likely” that a number of libraries would move.
Staff hours would be reduced to half of the current opening hours. However, more would be made of technology to keep libraries open outside staffed hours, including online ordering.
Option two suggests closing Burnt Oak, Childs Hill, Mill Hill, East Finchley, Osidge and South Friern libraries.
The remaining libraries would be staffed for 60 per cent of their current opening hours. Opening hours would also be increased, using technology to allow access from 7am to 10pm, outside staffed times.
Option three suggests closing East Barnet and Childs Hill libraries, and offering East Finchley, Edgware, Mill Hill and South Friern libraries to be run by volunteers as ‘community libraries’. The space in each would be reduced, and the libraries could move.
Hendon, Burnt Oak, Chipping Barnet, Church End, Golders Green, Colindale, North Finchley and Oside libraries would be staffed for 50 per cent of the current opening hours. Opening hours would be increased through new technology from 7am to 10pm, outside staffed times."

So a smorgasbord of cuts, relocation, collocation, volunteers and staffless self-service 'libraries', if you can call such a thing a library?!
(see and

As you would imagine Barnet Unison is up in arms about this latest 're-organisation' (cynical management speak that means cuts)

"Proposals for the library service also suggest extending opening hours by leaving libraries unstaffed, which Unison said would put the safety of the public at risk.
Unison said: “Staff opening and closing the library at the beginning and end of unstaffed hours will also be put at extra risk.
“Until we have evidence from the council, Unison believe unstaffed libraries pose a great danger to our members, our other colleagues and to the general public.”
The union also questioned whether the reorganisation of libraries would save money, or whether unstaffed hours would make thefts more likely.
Making greater use of volunteers to help run the service was also questioned, a move Unison claimed would put the libraries at risk of “eventual closure”.
The letter added: “Nationally it is far from being proved that volunteer-managed libraries have the staying power to operate in the long term once initial enthusiasm and funding dwindles or ceases.”

Oh and library staff were only given 30 minutes consultation time on these proposals and Union stewards were hampered in their attempts to represent members, shameful conduct by an administration that's shown nothing but contempt for its workforce and residents.


On the 14/10/14 Greenwich library workers took strike action against Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), the so-called 'Social Enterprise' that runs the library service there and in Wandsworth.

"The dispute is about staffing - there are at least 12 unfilled posts and GLL are proposing to cut more. In addition, GLL are refusing to commit to pay any eventual NJC award to TUPE staff transferred over from the Council."

The strike was called by Unite and all 86 of their members walked out, a 100% success, well done to Onay Kasab, regional officer, and everyone involved. They are planning 2 more days of action on the 30th and 31st of October 2014.


Wandsworth Library which only re-opened in 2009 after a £1.5m re-development could be moved to a new building next door if the council gets its way. The library is currently located in a grade 2 listed building which the council wants to flog to the highest bidder. The council are spinning the move saying that the new building is part of the regeneration of the area and will have a cafe which will attract more people, but it looks as if this is just another case of selling the family silver.
All this after a document written by the local tories was leaked outlining massive cuts including proposals to close non-town centre libraries, well well!


Bexley Council is proposing to hand 4 of its smaller libraries over to volunteers or "community focussed organisations" and focus its resources on 6 of it's larger town-centre libraries, sadly this a pattern taking place up and down the country. The nonsense spouted by councils in these situations is sickening and cynical, Bexley are calling their volunteer model 'co-operative libraries' whilst Sheffield are calling theirs 'Associate Libraries'.
Who do they think they are kidding? They conduct sham consultations then try to hoodwink the public with doublespeak, it's a disgrace.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Cuts to rural buses and libraries; a toxic brew?

I've started to notice recently more and more concerns being raised about cuts to local bus services;


“These bus routes are a lifeline to Rye and our villages, which is why we will be campaigning hard to protect them.
People rely on our bus services to get about town, to work and to school. There are alternatives to reducing the support for these routes which wouldn’t be so damaging to our local economy, businesses and the community.”

"The number of people whose lives are being blighted by ‘transport poverty’ in Suffolk is set to increase unless urgent action is taken, a charity has warned.
It is feared up to about 15% of the county could already being ‘locked out’ from modern life due to a lack of access to cars and public transport."

and Unison along with the group 'Campaign for better transport' have also, if you'll excuse the pun, got on board;

and in their report Counting the cost; how cuts are shrinking women’s lives’ Unison raise specific concerns relating to women and cuts to bus services;

“Buses are a lifeline for many women, especially those working in low paid jobs who can’t afford other modes of transport. Women of all ages use buses more than rail services and 82% of eligible older women have a concessionary bus pass, compared to 74% of men8. Our survey found that:
Nearly 40% of women travelled by bus to go shopping or use other public services, like visiting the library or health services.”

Why am I interested/concerned about this? If you add these cuts to the ones being made to rural library services then you have a situation that could leave a lot of people in the communities affected very vulnerable and isolated.

I recently wrote a blog post on behalf of Voices for the Library for ‘Age Uk’ in which I made the following points;

So why are libraries so important to the rural elderly and why must we protect and improve them?

1. They’re accessible
 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.
3. They help to combat social isolation
Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.
The comment below sums it up well and applies to any person living or working in a rural setting;
We know that huge numbers of our members rely on a bus to get to work, to do their shopping and access other public services, like hospitals and libraries.”
David Arnold
Policy officer, UNISON

But it doesn't have to be this way, in Northern Ireland many Counties operate a subsidised dial-a-bus 
scheme for the very reason that they recognise that rural isolation is a problem.

"Rural isolation is a big issue for the Department for Rural Development. 
It launched a £16m Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation 

framework two years ago. 

Among the schemes to benefit, were the 11 community transport projects 

across Northern Ireland that allow members, who have paid a small joining fee, 

to book a journey in a bus or car."

"The need for rural buses is growing. Banks are closing branches across 

Northern Ireland. 

Ulster Bank is closing branches in Finaghy, Newtownabbey and Hillsborough. 

Libraries have closed in a number of rural areas over recent years, 

including in Moneymore, County Londonderry and Moy in County Tyrone. 

It has been estimated that one in five of Northern Ireland's pubs closed 

between 2000 and 2013 and the rate is not believed to have slowed down."
see also;