Saturday, 22 November 2014

Speaking Up For Libraries today

I filled in at the last minute as a Green Party speaker at the Speak Up for Libraries Conference in Bloomsbury today. It was inspiring to see so many people passionately committed to the survival of libraries in the teeth of local council cuts, privatisation and volunteer solutions. Barnet library campaigners were there who have a particularly hard job on their hands. LINK

I made the link between developments in libraries, education and health - all public assets being handed over to the private sector for profit.

I quoted the Green Party core value that should be the basis of  our libraries policy as well as our other polices:
The success of a society cannot be measured by narrow economic indicators, but should take account of factors affecting the quality of life for all people: personal freedom, social equity, health, happiness and human fulfilment.
I went on to  support locally accessible, professionally staffed, adequately funded, democratically accountable local libraries.

I stressed their importance as shared public spaces contributing to social cohesion in addition to their primary role.

The other people on the panel were  Helen Goodman MP (Labour, Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport) and Justin Tomlinson MP (Conservative). Liberal Democrats were invited but did not send a speaker. Author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons chaired the panel.

There was a discussion about the need for clearer national standards for library provision but delegates pointed out that these were not being enforced by the current Secretary of State despite Lincolnshire campaigners win in the High Court LINK.

I said that I had no faith in Ed Vaizey intervening in the Barnet case as that council was the Tory flagship after Hammersmith went Labour at the local elections.  He would hardly interfere with a council that was the pathbreaker for other Tory councils wanting to shed services. I suggested that there was no substitute for a mass national campaign in defence of libraries.

Non-intervention reflected underlying assumptions about the library service and contrasts with Michael Gove's many interventions in education.

On national standards I agreed that broad standards were important but how they were implemented was a matter for local decision making. However, they would mean nothing if there was not adequate funding for local government and at present there were indications that many council may fail financially and be unable to deliver even core services.

This is how Speak Up for Libraries told the story of the panel on Storify:
(first slide should be 'professionally staffed')

1 comment:

Meg Howarth said...

It would be helpful if Christine Gilbert would speak up about the CPS investigation into the fake emails posted in support of Andrew Gillick's original change-of-use planning application for Kensal Rise Library. To date, she has ignored all email requests for an update on the matter - it's almost sixteen months since the grubby affair surfaced. Cllr Butt, champion of the police investigation, is also silent on the matter, as is Brent's legal boss, Fiona Ledden. Without a case-reference number or file name, members of the public are unable to find out any more. Why are Brent's chief executive and senior politicians so reticent? Do they really want to push the affair in to the long grass?