Saturday, 7 March 2015

Barnet, Lambeth, Devon & Bryant.


An extraordinary council meeting took place in Barnet recently where the council barricades where stormed and the Mayor voted the wrong way and did a runner, anyway Mrs Angry describes it a lot better than i ever could so here's her account of the proceedings;
"The proposals to cut libraries, shut libraries, shrink libraries, squeeze them until the last book jumps off the last shelf, into a waiting skip, and they can sell a collection of vastly profitable properties for development - all this has, predictably to all but said Tory councillors, caused uproar in Broken Barnet, even unto the very heartland of their own natural born voters - a consequence now leading our three Tory MPs, Theresa Villiers, Mike Freer and Matthew Offord to be quivering with fear, on the brink as we are of the general election, and forcing them on to a desperate, unprecedented course of actually forming an opinion on a local political issue - and then expressing it.
Villiers, Freer and Offord have now, at the end of the consultation period, weighed up their chances of being re-elected and realised that they are now, and have always been, dedicated defenders of the library service about to be destroyed by their Tory colleagues. We therefore arrived at the Town Hall, last night, wondering if this declaration of concern would hold any weight with our councillors."


"Libraries change lives. They are magical portals to worlds of wonder, replete with possibility, especially for poor, working class, black and ethnic minority people, they offer a hope of rising above the limiting circumstances of our birth. For the shy, isolated and excluded child, they offer companionship and a chance to rehearse bravery, for poor, working class, black and ethnic minority people the chance to meet their full potential. Libraries are more than a material resource; they are the commitment of our community to its future. They express a faith in the power of shared imagination. Lambeth Council, one of the poorest boroughs in the country, is stopping funding to half of the borough’s libraries. Two will be immediately sold off to cash in on the rising property prices locally. Others they hope will be taken over by fantasy big society community groups, or replaced by bookshelves in pubs. Threatening half the borough’s libraries with closure is a short-sighted and irresponsible plan, public libraries are an essential part of a functioning literate nation. This is an act of vandalism against the community, signalling the death of hope that anything can ever get better. UPDATE 1 March 2015: @SaveLambthLibs have been gathering support from authors on Twitter. The following authors have retweeted the following “please show your support for #SaveLambethLibraries by RT or commenting on our author statement”:
David Almond
Philip Ardagh
Tim Atkinson
Margaret Bateson-Hill
Jag Bhalla
Elizabeth Buchanan
Cathy Cassidy
Mark Chadbourn
Marika Cobbold
Jane Costello
Jackie Collins
Cressida Cowell
Bobbie Darbyshire
John Dougherty
Stella Duffy
Katie Fforde
Catherine Gault
Alan Gibbons
Andrea Giles
Daisy Goodwin
Jeremy Hardy
Joanne Harris
Kate Harrison
Ian Hocking
Milly Johnson
Caroline Jowett
Bernadine Kennedy
Lia Keyes
Tim Lebbon
Toby Litt
Val McDermid
Anthony McGowan
Sarah McIntyre
Paul Mason
Fiona Pitt-Kethley
Bali Rai
Ian Rankin
Jay Rayner
Zelda Rhiando
Michael Rosen
Meg Rosoff
William Ryan
Marcus Sedgwick
Caroline Smailes
Irvine Welsh
Alex Wheatle
Jamie Zubairi
We are incredibly grateful to all of them for the support they have offered.


Local user groups add criticism to Lambeth Council Cultural Consultation as impact of proposals starts to be understood
"The Friends group then poses some questions for Lambeth Council and Cllr Jane Edbrooke, the Cabinet member who has put together the horror of the Cultural Consultation:
“Can it afford to replace all the services the libraries now provide (on the cheap)?
Does it realise that libraries support its own priorities in health, education, digital access, business, employment, family support, literacy, and more?
Is it happy to deprive its residents of all this – and pay for the consequences?
Does it have any idea what it is doing?”

Perhaps the most cutting observation from the Friends group is:
“The financial plan to support so-called ‘community libraries’ simply doesn’t add up. They are being set up to fail.”


Francis Maude and the Cabinet Office will be overjoyed as yet another public service spins out after all it's all just part of the governments wider agenda to offload the public sector and open it to the rigours of the market. This is not a 'road to Damascus' moment where Devon Council has suddenly decided that it wants to hand more control to its workers and communities it's a tax break.
"A mutual service with charitable status could be eligible for up to 80 per cent relief on its business rates and could also apply for grants and funds which are not available to local authorities."

For some background see;

Chris Bryant

And last but not least Chris Bryant MP, Labour's spokesperson on libraries, recently visited Barnet where he outlined what some of us already new, that Labour's policy on libraries is weak, non-committal and substantially mimics that of the Tories. For an excellent analysis see;
"It’s official, the Shadow Culture Minister has confirmed that not only does he prefer a non-interventionist approach, that Labour will not legislate to protect public libraries, but volunteer libraries are also acceptable. In the interview Chris Bryant accuses the Government of a “dereliction of duty” but then states that he will do exactly the same.
So a hands-off, localism-centred, volunteer approach to libraries is the wrong path for the current government to pursue but if elected Mr Bryant will do precisely that. Only in politics would you get away with such blatant double-speak and expect the public to believe it! It’s a sad indication that some communities are so desperate to save their libraries that they do."


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