Saturday, 5 May 2012

The re-election of Boris and what this could mean for London Libraries.

Well like it or lump it in London we've got Boris for another 4 years, what could this mean for London's public libraries?

Let's look at his record on Libraries up until now.

In January 2011 Boris announced that he was planning to set up a trust to run libraries that were at risk of closure, after the announcement no detail emerged and the plans seem to fade away until December the same year when he announced the 'Team London - Library Champions' initiative! Merton was used as the template for the scheme and now has over 450 volunteers working in its libraries!
So within the space of a few months he had moved from the position of saving libraries to doing nothing to stop the closures and staffing the ones still open with volunteers!
In February 2011 he muddied the waters by stating;

“…there is no statutory obligation to provide a library service, but there is plenty of ill-thought-out legislation about equalities and heaven knows what, emanating from Westminster, imposed from Whitehall and slavishly obeyed by local authorities. Councils are not obliged to have libraries…”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/8337324/What-ski-helmets-can-teach-us-about-keeping-libraries-open.html

something that was clearly untrue and possibly, along with similar comments by the LGA, meant to undermine the sector, or was it just another gaff?

Off course before all this came the Mayor's 'Cultural Strategy' with the immortal;



"The Mayor strongly endorses the efforts that

library staff, local authorities and others are making

to continue to innovate. In recent months, MLA

London in conjunction with the London Cultural

Improvement Programme has overseen the London

Library Change Programme (LLCP) to assist this

process and to address many of the strategic and

resourcing issues. It is also looking at different

governance models, exploring how services can

be made more efficient through possible sharing

or contracting out, while still preserving local

democratic accountability. It is important that the

LLCP delivers tangible, long-term outcomes for

customers, such as improved stock, more flexible

opening hours, improved use of digital technologies

and greater convenience."

The London Libraries Change Programme (LLCP) was run along the lines of a masonic lodge, secret and only for the privileged few namely members of the ALCL, Chief Leisure Officers and the now defunct MLA! No one outside this circle was privy to the reports and findings and no one really knows what impact the programme has had, except that their 'workforce benchmarking' study with it's proposals to cut the London Library workforce by 10% might have already hit its target?

Recently Boris has spoken out publicly in support of the Brent Campaigners, a move that many saw as a cynical election ploy!

Mr Johnson spoke to the Times exclusively about the controversial issue.
He said: “I think it is a great shame. It’s very sad what’s happened to the libraries in Brent. I read that Brent had closed more libraries than anywhere else in the country. Closing them is something that is actually avoidable as there are boroughs that have actually opened libraries recently.
“I think Hammersmith is one of them so it goes to show that they are still used.”
Mr Johnson added: “I have heard about the efforts of the campaigners and various community events they have held to fight for them and I admire them for that.”
Brent & Kiburn Times 01/04/12

With Boris's emphasis on volunteers and private finance, the ALCL seemingly supporting his position and the push towards privatisation I don't envisage there being much of a comprehensive and efficient, publicly funded or accountable library service left in London come the next Mayoral elections in 2016!

  





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