Friday 9 October 2015

Unison challenges Barnet Council's library devastation

'The Thick of It' actor Rebecca Front supports Barnet library campaigners

From Barnet Unison

On Friday 2 October 2015, Barnet Council published their devastating report on the future of the library service which revealed:

· 46% of workforce to be sacked
· Council are now proposing to cut the 634.5 staffed library hours a week to 188.
· Four out of 14 Libraries will be run completely by volunteers

Our report found 

“The cost of the three phases of the Library Review is expected to be about £3.15m, plus £4.41m to reduce the size of libraries and install technology enabled opening systems, a total cost of £7.56m. This is 4.4 times the projected annual savings in the library service operational budget.” 

“The scale of the cut in the Library budget is unprecedented and could result in permanent damage to the service, drastically reduce resident’s use of the service and demotivate staff. The planned savings fall short of the target, so further cuts may be made in the Library budget.”

The Barnet UNISON report makes the following recommendation:

1. The Council should commit to retaining direct provision of the Library Service, eliminate the need for Phase 3 and save the £500,000 costs.

2. Undertake a more rigorous and comprehensive equality impact assessment of the potential effect of the technology-enabled opening hours, drawing on the socioeconomic profile of users in the Edgware pilot.
3. The equality impact of the proposals on staff must be included in the Equality Analysis.
4. The proposed additional risks should be included in the risk register.
5. The consultation process should prioritise the views of service users and groups and organisations that are potential users of library services and facilities.

Professor Dexter Whitfield said:  

"Instead of trying to recruit a contractor, the Council should commit to continued provision by Library staff and use the £500,000 savings to increase staffed hours"

Hugh Jordan Barnet UNISON Library Convenor said:

 “The Council’s proposal “Barnet future Library Service” is a plan to replace qualified, experienced staff who have a wide range of skills and knowledge with volunteer and machines, and to reduce the size and quality of Libraries. The people of Barnet, including our members, did not march, lobby, sign petitions and respond to the consultation in support of volunteer and machine operated libraries, they were defending a service staffed by real library workers, libraries with enough space for people to study and use IT, and to house sufficient items for loan to meet the needs of their users. UNISON members working in Barnet Libraries oppose the Council’s dire future vision of our Service.”

UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess said: 
“It is a little early for Halloween, but this Library proposal is more trick than treat. The trick is pretending to save our Libraries, the cut in staff and subsequent staff opening hours is tantamount to wholesale closure of all of our Libraries. This proposal will leave all the libraries to ‘wither on the vine’. I can predict a future Library meeting recommending closure of the Libraries with the justification being that no one is using the Libraries. Our members will be joining the Save Barnet Libraries campaign at the Library Committee meeting on 12 October.”

Save Barnet Libraries campaign are holding a rally outside Hendon Town Hall on Monday 12 October at 6 pm.

1 comment:

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

An 'elephant in the room' regading library closures in any borough is the impending impact of online-only registration for the Tories' 'Universal Credit' transformation of the welfare state. Charities say millions without internet access will face benefits struggle:

"Online-only Universal Credit system will come into force later this year [2013] following the closure of many advice centres

"Photo caption: Charities say there is no strategy for how the government is going to support people to do online form filling.

".... Once the government's flagship welfare reform Universal Credit is introduced..., the system will be wholly internet-based and claimants will only be able to make face-to-face applications in exceptional circumstances...."

Adults with literacy problems are likely to be very severely disadvantaged by this, especially as the onus for 'getting things right' has shifted away from protecting the vulnerable to penalising them for any errors they make in their formal benefit applications. Benefits: Thousands face £50 fine for errors

Yet as for taking 'equality impact assessments' into consideration, that never seems to have bothered Tory Government, local or central, has it when it comes to implementing 'radical reforms'?

Dude Swheatie of Kwug

PS: All this makes for very interesting case study material of the Corbyn turnaround: How far will Labour's 'social security offensive' go? Labour conference: We’re planning a social security offensive, says Abrahams

Will they come down harder in attacking rollout of Universal Credit?