Thursday, 15 January 2015

Brent, Peterborough, Stoke-on-Trent & a fish riding a bicycle!


"Under proposals by the town hall, Ealing Road, Harlesden, Kilburn, Kingsbury, Wembley and Willesden Green Library Centre will be handed over to an outside organisation.
The council is hoping a charity will agree to manage the libraries as their status makes them eligible for an 80 per cent rebate on business rate, this would save the town hall £160,000.
However other tenders from private operators would be considered."
"Margaret Bailey, chair of Friends of Kensal Rise Library, a group set up to fight the closure, said: “Libraries, like many other services, should not be subjected to notions of profit or market forces and privatising often results in costing more."
So just 3 years after closing 6 libraries Brent Council decide that since the remaining ones are doing so well they might as well privatise them and all for the paltry sum of £160k, that's a senior officers annual salary or a consultancy firm's monthly fee.
Budget 2015/16: No Peterborough libraries to shut - a classic doublespeak headline, what it really means is that no library buildings will close but they're hollowing out the service.
"No libraries will be shut in Peterborough but job losses are possible under new proposals.

The plans would see libraries open for 50 per cent longer with residents able to use self-service technology when staff are not there.
The 10 libraries in Peterborough would stay open for 386 hours compared to the 261 they are now.
However, the number of hours the libraries are staffed would reduce from 261 to 149.
No details have been given on potential staff reductions."
The article goes on to mention 'Open +' "self-service technology", see my blog from April 14 for more on this;
The article ends with the immortal;
Councillor Lucia Serluca, cabinet member for city centre management, culture and tourism, said: “We have listened to what people have told us and used this to develop a library service for the future.”
Yes Cllr Serluca i'm sure that those consulted said that they wanted less staff and bank style foyers with security cameras.
Stoke-on-Trent Council officials and councillors have a new 'co-operative working model' which means that they can issue 220 of their staff with 'section 188 notices' telling them that their posts have been deleted with a clear conscience knowing that what they are doing is adhering to 'co-operative' principles. Or so they like to tell themselves as they twist and turn at night trying to get to sleep!
Do you ever come across an article that you wish you had written yourself because it totally sums up how you feel about a topic? Well recently this article appeared in The Guardian;

Trying to run a public service like a business will never work

A public service is an inherently different beast from a business and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle

"One of the greatest myths of our time is that public services can be made more efficient if we run them as businesses. The commercialisation of our public services has been a manifest failure, and the response offered by the mainstream parties is that we simply haven’t commercialised them enough.
Having spent years attempting to fix broken projects and teams within the NHS and local government, and also in the private sector, what I have learned is this: a public service and a business are inherently different beasts and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle.
The clue is in the name: the primary aim of a public service is to provide a service to the public – to protect crucial social utilities from the instabilities of capitalism and to avoid negative social impacts."

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Alternative New Year Public Libraries Honours List.

Depending on what side of the line you stand you were either dismayed or ecstatic about the New Year Honours awarded to library folk this year, 3 out of the 4 awarded went to those actively involved in handing libraries over to volunteers.

For more details see;

Now let me just also say that i find the whole Honours thing to be totally archaic and counter-productive in a so-called democratic country and if i ever received one i would take great pleasure in telling the government were to stick it. I mean how could anyone that really loves libraries accept an award from a government that is seeking to destroy, fragment and divest them?!?

So for a bit of fun and to show my appreciation to those whom i think are true supporters of libraries i'm awarding my own in no order of merit (cause we wouldn't want to create more hierarchies would we?) Also i'm sorry to those i've left out, i couldn't list you all.

Shirley Burnham (@ShirleyBurnham)
Fights tirelessly for public libraries and keeps us up to date with all the latest library news (and often helps me with my grammar). What would I/we do without her?

Elizabeth Ash (@ElizCro) and Laura Swaffield (@lswaffield1) - The Library Campaign - (@LibraryCampaign) - Both Elizabeth and Laura help to keep The Library Campaign, the only UK national charity for library users and friends groups, running. They also play an active part in the Speak up for Libraries coalition and Elizabeth in her own right helps to run the Save Croydon Libraries Campaign. See; and

Ian Anstice (@publiclibnews) - a fellow colleague on Voices for the Library and the author of the highly influential and regarded Public Libraries News website, the best source of public libraries information in the UK. His commitment to and passion for libraries is unsurpassed (and he does it all in his spare time!) See;

Alan Gibbons (@mygibbo) - Children's author and library campaigner. Alan has recently been heavily involved in the Save Liverpool Libraries campaign and chaired the panel discussion at last years SUFL conference also delivering his trade mark blinder of a closing speech. See;

Leon Bolton (@Lebol125) - a public librarian who writes and comments about public libraries in a very thoughtful manner. See;

Radical Librarians Collective (@RadicalLibs) - for trying to raise the level of discussion and for highlighting issues and concerns regarding the neoliberal zeitgeist in libraries management, thought and policy making. And a lovely bunch of people. See;

Jolyon Jones (@JonesFearless) and the Friends of the Library of Birmingham (@FoLoB_) - for mounting and sustaining a brilliant campaign against library cuts in Birmingham. See;

And now for my first special category, Union Activists;

Barnet Unison (@barnet_unison) - for fighting tooth and nail for every library user, worker and library in Barnet against an onslaught of privatisation and cuts. (also a special mention for Prof Dexter Whitfield of the ESSU for his work in supporting them and all those fighting to save public services) See; and

Unite members in Greenwich Libraries and the Branch (especially Sarah and Onay Kasab) - for taking on GLL and winning. See;

Matthew Egan (@medegan) - Unison's person on public libraries, how he puts up with the SUFL meetings i'll never know?

My second special category is an international one;

Nina de Jesus (@satifice), Lisa Rabey (@byshieldmaiden) & #TeamHarpy - two American librarians fighting a lawsuit by Joe Murphy, for details see;

Alison Macrina (@flexlibris) - "a librarian and IT manager at the Watertown Free Public Library and an activist fighting for patron privacy rights and education in Massachusetts libraries and beyond" for why I think she deserves an award see;

Queens Library Guild, Local 1321 (@local1321) - a great bunch of AFSCME union comrades fighting the fight for libraries in NYC.

And of course a special mention to all the campaigners out there fighting to protect libraries; all the users for continuing to support and use libraries; to all the library staff who continue to provide a crucial service under extreme circumstances and last but not least to all the LIS academics who support the cause and widen and heighten the debate.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Cuts to Haringey Libraries including Marcus Garvey Library (with petition)

I've been spending a lot of time helping to fight library cuts and closures in other parts of the UK (and appearing on C4 news, giving interviews to RTTV et al, writing articles for the Guardian and Informed, giving evidence to the Sieghart Inquiry, etc etc) and have taken my eye off my own manor, Haringey.

And in that time it seems that Cllr Adam Jogee, the Cabinet Advisor on libraries, and his council colleagues have been making big statements about not closing libraries but at the same time proposing cutting budgets, staff and floorspace, naughty naughty!

Adam Jogee (@AJogee)
So @haringeycouncil committed to keeping each@haringeylibrary open (ALL NINE). Work to improve them has

In campaigning circles it's called 'hollowing out', keeping the lights on and doors open but salami slicing the budgets until all there is left is a shell of a service, the old smoke and mirrors trick!
5000-6000 library staff in the UK have already been culled since 2007/8 (900-1000 in London alone) and outreach/stock budgets/opening hours slashed.

12 redundancies, 15% of the Haringey Libraries workforce, are planned "Ah yes but some/all of them will be voluntary redundancies" I hear you say, let me tell you there's nothing voluntary about being ‘restructured’ and being manoeuvred into a position of early retirement, some are happy with this but many are not. It also means extra workload for the colleagues left behind but not to fear the council also plan to introduce more self-serve in order that library staff be “freed from standing behind counters”, god forbid we would want trained human beings rather than kiosks!!

On top of all this the council are selling Apex House which houses their advice/service centre and moving the services into Marcus Garvey Library meaning that valuable library floorspace will be lost, co-location as the town hall bods like to call it. It looks as if children and adult library users are going to lose out in this arrangement and that dedicated children's staff could be lost?

This ‘co-location’ process is happening up and the country, councils are desperately selling off their real estate and shoe-horning services together, they then try to dress it up by calling the new arrangements ‘hubs’ or ‘Devon Centres or ‘Libraryplus’ but really it’s just cuts with no, or very little, innovation or consultation.

“In effect they are trying to deliver their pledge not to close libraries by shrinking then reducing staffing and facilities and replacing these with other services displaced from buildings they have sold off”
Sean Fox, Haringey Unison Branch Secretary.

Oh and there’s also talk of redeveloping the Wood Green Central Library site and last year, on 21/6/14 to be precise, Cllrs got taken on a ‘regeneration tour’ taking in this site with talk of combining with “private ownerships to provide a significant redevelopment opportunity”, it's hard to say at this time what kind of library will emerge from this "significant redevelopment opportunity" but let's hope it's not another example of the price of everything and the value of nothing.

But anyway what can you/we do?

Well first of all join your local library if you haven't already done so and use it. Councillors are obsessed with footfall and issue figures so the more people who come in through the doors and borrow books etc then the harder it is for them to use non-usage as an excuse to cut and close, but it's no guarantee that they won't.

Sign this petition;
'Save Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham from cuts and reorganisation'

Let Cllr Claire Kober, Leader of the Council, and Cllr Jason Arthur, Cabinet member for Resources and Culture, know that you oppose the cuts/reorganisation.

Respond to the council consultation, see;

And most importantly unite and fight.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Brent Council proposes to privatise the management of it's library service.

Martin Francis of Brent Green Party has just blogged about proposals by Brent Council to privatise the management of it's library service, see;

"This is the proposal (ENS18) in the documentation that went to Cabinet last month

To change the management of the library service to a trust arrangement. The exact arrangement will need to be determined. Within London, five authorities deliver their services in conjunction with other authorities, one delivers through a charitable trust established by the Council which also delivers other services such as leisure centres and seven have outsourced delivery to a social enterprise or a private sector provider. Elsewhere in the country, some library services have been outsourced to a staff-managed mutual or social enterprise, and larger library services have been commissioned to run smaller ones. Charitable organisations are eligible for an 80% rebate on NNDR. Changes to rules on business rates in 2013 mean that 70% of the cost of this rebate is borne by Central Government with the remainder being covered by the local authority. Therefore the saving to the Council on business rates of transferring a library service to the charitable sector is 56% of the total rates bill - in Brent this amounts to a saving of approximately £160K. The exact level of savings would depend on the tenders received.
It will take approximately 12 months to complete this work and switch to a new management arrangement.
How would this affect users of this service?
There would have to be public consultation and a full impact assessment before proceeding.
There would be no direct impact on service users as there will be no reduction or significant change in service levels or quality. "

Save Bob Lawrence Library Campaign - an update.

Save Bob Lawrence Library




A grassroots resident led campaign to save the library in Edgware from closure is underway.  Campaigners braved the rain this morning to bring signatures to over 1500.  There is still time to sign the e-petition  and complete the Council’s consultation document, Take Part.

In 2013, at the Reading Agency Annual Lecture, Neil Gaiman said “Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.”

He also said: “…libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.  I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally….. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs... Librarians can help these people navigate that world.”

Between 2004 and 2010, 83 neighbourhoods in Brent and Harrow became more deprived, one of the fastest growing areas of deprivation.  Edgware, where Bob Lawrence is situated ranked the most deprived when Free School Meals was used as an indicator and is one of the 5 most deprived wards in the borough.  In the circumstances, it makes little sense to close Bob Lawrence Library, a vital community space in an area which has few resources.

To support the campaign, you can do the following:

·         Sign the e-petition to stop the closure  or sign in person at Morrisons, Queensbury on Sunday 4th January 2015.

·         Attend the In-Person Consultation on Tuesday, 6th  January 2015, 6:30 pm – 8 pm at Bob Lawrence Library, 6-8 North Parade, Mollison Way, HA8 5QH 

·         Follow us on Twitter @librarymuststay, 

·         Like our Facebook page & leave a comment.

·         Take a selfie in front of library & post it on Twitter & Facebook. 

·         Email any suggestions to


Farah Sadiq

Bob Lawrence Library Campaign


Background Information

Neil Gaiman Reading Agency Annual Lecture, 2013

Harrow Vitality Profiles 2010

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Privatising the City of Culture (or can we trust trusts?)

Only a year after being awarded the accolade of the 2017 'City of Culture' Hull City Council are proposing to set up a "leisure company" to take over the running of their leisure facilities, libraries, museums, park ranger and catering services. Now one thing strikes me straight away about this; why are libraries part of the bundle, after all they are statutory and they aren't in my opinion solely a leisure service?
The answer to the above question probably lies in the fact that most councils place their library services in 'Culure & Leisure' directorates, that someone including the LGA has been perpetrating the myth that libraries are non-statutory, that we have a government and a Sec of Sate who fail to intervene to stop library cuts and closures and that we have a chasm in the leadership and promotion of the national service. Libraries have become easy to offload.

So what is a 'leisure company' or 'leisure trust' and what are some of the issues with this model of privatisation?

"What a Leisure Trust means in practice:

Leisure services are outsourced to a separate organisation/company. The Council

retains ownership of the facilities, which are leased to the Trust.

Virtually all the savings come from rate reductions and VAT savings, which are much

smaller initially because of the high set up costs.

Direct democratic control of the service will cease - elected member representation on

a trust is limited to less than 20% of the board. Company law requires that Board

members must put the interests of the leisure trust before those of the local authority.

After a year the Trust will usually cease to use council services and will be responsible

its own procurement and contracting or corporate and other services."

Unison Scotland have also raised concerns;

"UNISON is concerned that large sections of public service delivery are

being shifted off to arms length bodies with very little research into the

effectiveness of such change."

Recently in Renfrewshire there have been protests against plans to pass the running of similar services to Renfrewshire Leisure Limited (RLL).

And there are similar plans being proposed by Angus Council and Unison have yet again raised concerns;
“Unison is not convinced that farming out leisure facilities to arm’s-length trusts improves the service for the public or the staff.
“They are not an alternative means of community ownership of public assets. In fact the policy tends to be used to save local authorities tax.
“Our experience so far is some trusts perform satisfactorily after the initial separation but the promised savings, extra funding and other benefits tend not to materialise.
“There is no evidence the public see an improvement in the service nor will the trust see a higher rate of private donations, which are often the reasons put forward.”

For more on leisure trusts see;