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Has Labour's leader endorsed 'Imaginative and progressive' volunteer run Libraries?

Alison Moore retweets report on volunteer Libraries

Both Children & Adults give time in Manchester to help

Money saved on staff wages ploughed back into the service 

The Bugle and others rarely have much luck in getting answers from Barnet Labour Party as to their alternatives to the approach followed by the Town Hall Conservatives.

It is not for the want of trying.

Today Conservative Cllr David Longstaff (the first to put his head above the parapet on Libraries on Twitter) gave it a go and asked Cllr Alison Moore several times for her vision for Libraries. In response the Labour Group Leader retweeted, an 'imaginative and progressive' report from Manchester City Council's Library strategy maybe granting a rare insight into Cllr Moore's thinking. 

Below is the report in full

The report contains what you would normally expect from a Libraries strategy. It details where the Library service is now, lists achievements and successes. It ticks all the right boxes, says all the right things: free PCs, helping people back to work etc.

However the core reform in the report is the embrace of the role of volunteers to keep the service afloat and payroll down. Key paragraphs are 4.2 (Young / Child volunteers) and section 6 from pg 12 (Much smaller Community run Libraries / Adult volunteers). Excerpts below.

How different is this Manchester vision of smaller Libraries staffed almost exclusively by volunteers to the one the Town Hall Conservatives have hinted at in their rather cack-handed consultation effort? As Labour don't seem prepared to propose increases in Council Tax have they concluded this is the only way forward?

Disqus below.


Labour hits back over Libraries claims made by Mike Freer

Alison Moore has rresponded to Mike Freer's attack on Labour's record we exclusively reported a few days ago. Mr Freer accused Ms Moore had supported a secret plan to close East Finchley Library when she was part of a Labour / LibDem administration from until 2002.

They both exchanged blows on twitter on 25 Feb.

Cllr Moore didn't deny the plans but suggested they weren't pursued as Labour had 'listened to residents'. Mr Freer rresponded that it was only the Conservatives, who took power in 2002, that cancelled the deal with Waitrose.

The next day Alison Moore fiercely hit back on Labour's website with a claim that the Conservatives had shut four Libraries (with the caveat that in three of the location some sort of Library remains), she said:  

The facts are that the Conservatives have closed 4 public libraries* in Barnet when they’ve been in control of the council, including two when Mike Freer was a Conservative councillor. Conservative plans to cut Barnet's 16 public libraries down to just 7 were leaked in 2005.

The facts are that not one library closed when Labour ran Barnet Council. No libraries were closed when Labour managed the council from 1994 to 2001, as a minority administration, despite Mr Freer’s desperate accusations. “Now the Conservatives are supporting cuts to libraries which could close six of our remaining 14 libraries, cut staffed opening hours and drastically reduce space at libraries which stay open.  

Mr Freer has ducked and dived long enough. His constituents want a straight answer – does Mr Freer support Labour’s proposal for all three of the Council’s unacceptable library options to be rejected at the Council meeting on Tuesday? Yes or no? And does Mr Freer agree that the Council must go back to the drawing board and develop a new, better plan, this time fully involving residents and library users?”

*libraries closed by Barnet Conservatives: Totteridge (2006/7), Hampstead Garden Suburb (2011 - reopened after a campaign as a community library), Friern Barnet (2012 - run as a community library after an occupation and court case), South Friern (2006/7 - closed, demolished and only re-built after a long campaign by residents and Labour Cllr Barry Rawlings).

The Bugle has contacted the 'sleepy' Town Hall Conservatives but as is quite usual they have no political response. We will update should we receive any.


Barnet gets FIVE mentions in speeches during Enfield Council budget debate

Enfield Council set its budget on 25 February. Our team over at the Enfield Bugle were there to cover the meeting. What was noticeable was that during the debate there were FIVE proper mentions of Barnet Council during speeches from both Conservative and Labour Councillors. Below is our five minute compilation of the five mentions.


Mike Freer accuses Labour of 'Spin and Betrayal' over Libraries

I am not backing Labour but Libraries mustn't close

Moore had secret plans to shut East Finchley Lib in 2002

We need to get more people using our Libraries

This morning the Ham & High ran a story with the headline

Tory MP Mike Freer joins Labour in slamming Barnet Libraries cuts plan

Labour Leader Alison Moore followed this up with this tweet

Speaking exclusively to The Barnet Bugle Mr Freer has clarified his position, hit out out at Finchley and Golders Green Labour and made claims over Cllr Alison Moore and East Finchley Library. He said:  

I am not backing Labour who it should be remembered had secret plans to close the current East Finchley Library; plans that only came to light when the Conservatives took back control of Barnet Council in 2002. A certain Cllr Alison Moore was a senior cabinet member of the Labour administration who failed to tell her own constituents about the secret plans.

My stance from the outset was that the communities should not be left without a library. That the future of the library services must include modernisation to attract new users – that the Council should be finding out why people who don’t use it don’t find the service attractive.

Labour can spin and spin to hide their own betrayal of East Finchley, but I’ve been consistent from the start, it’s only now that the papers have picked up on it. 

Update: Mike Freer has hit back on twitter


Mike Freer and Matthew Offord speak in defence of Shechita and Halal slaughter

There was (another) debate on religious slaughter methods in Westminster Hall on 23 February. Both MPs for Finchley and Golders Green and Hendon spoke up to defend religious freedoms and the right to use ritual slaughter methods.

Watch the full debate below


Theresa Villiers calls on Barnet Council to keep all Libraries in Chipping Barnet open

All Libraries in Chipping Barnet must remain open

"Find other ways to make the savings needed"

All three options are unacceptable as they are

Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers, has made a rare public intervention in matters concerning Barnet Council. She has called for the options that would see libraries close in her constituency to be 'dropped' and for the Council to

find other ways to make the savings needed

She said

I am calling on the Council to keep all of the five libraries in my constituency open and rule out the options in their consultation which would see some of them close.

Libraries are a much valued community resource in my constituency.  They provide important educational and learning opportunities for people of all ages and contribute to social mobility, for example by providing a quiet place for children and young people to study even if their home life is disrupted. Many older people place great importance not just on library services, but on the opportunity for social interaction a visit to the library can offer. My constituents also greatly value library buildings as community spaces which can support a wider network of local activities and meetings.

I accept that savings need to be made in libraries funding because of the reduction in council budgets needed to deal with the deficit inherited from the last Government. But it should be possible to make the savings necessary by reforming the way libraries are run and staffed not by closing them.

Option One in the council’s consultation could potentially become a basis of a sustainable way forward for our libraries in Barnet, but a number of crucial questions need to be answered before the case is made out for Option One. For example, assurances are needed that reductions in floor space will be kept to a minimum, and any potential relocation proposals need to be accompanied by firm guarantees about where and when the relocated library will open.

Below is Ms Villiers' formal submission to the Council's consultation which ended last night

My Chipping Barnet constituency has five libraries: Chipping Barnet, East Barnet, Osidge, South Friern and Friern Barnet. I would urge the Council to keep all of them open. 

There is strong support for the libraries in my constituency. In my view, they provide invaluable educational and learning opportunities for people of all ages. They also make a helpful contribution to social mobility, for example by providing a quiet place for children and young people to study, even if their home life is disrupted. My understanding from the feedback my constituents have given me is that libraries are a popular resource for a very wide range of people from across our diverse borough, including our minority ethnic communities. Many older people place great importance not just on library services, but on the opportunity for social interaction a visit to the library can offer. 

As the Council’s consultation also acknowledges, it is not just access to the books and services which is appreciated by the public. People also greatly value library buildings as community spaces which can support a wider network of local activities and meetings. 

I acknowledge that the record deficit inherited from the last Government means that the Council has to take some difficult decisions to enable it to continue to deliver high quality services with reduced budgets. 

I accept that it would be hard to make the savings needed by the Council without some reduction in funding for libraries. 

I therefore believe that the Council would be justified in seeking to make some savings from the libraries budget. However, the Council needs to find a way to make those savings whilst continuing to provide excellent quality library services to my constituents. I do not believe that it is necessary or justifiable to close any of the libraries in my constituency. There are other more efficient ways to reduce costs by reforming the way libraries are run. 

I therefore reject Option Two since it would mean the closure of two libraries in my constituency (Osidge and South Friern). Nor is Option Three acceptable. Community run libraries can provide an excellent service and a real local hub (as illustrated by the success of Friern Barnet Community Library). But while this model can certainly play a useful role in the future, I do not think it is practical to expand it on the scale envisaged by Option Three.

There are elements of Option One which I can support, in particular the fact that it keeps all libraries open in my constituency and would lead to longer opening hours. But there are important questions which would need to be resolved before Option One could be acceptable. 

The consultation states that some libraries might be relocated. The Council needs to provide information about which libraries might be moved and where they would go. I would be gravely concerned at the prospect of a library closing its doors without a very firm guarantee of its re-opening immediately on another site which was equally convenient for my constituents. 

The consultation document envisages a reduction in floor space for library services in each building. It would be essential to provide clarification on how that will impact on each of the libraries in my constituency. Some modest reduction in floor space might be acceptable, particularly if it were accompanied with refurbishment and better disabled access. But any reduction needs to be kept to a minimum. 

Better use of library facilities for external groups, with a view to generating an income stream is a sensible way to contribute to the financial sustainability of our local libraries. Deepening local community involvement with libraries is also helpful. 

I accept that changes to the way libraries are staffed are necessary if savings are to be made without closing any libraries. I also accept that the self-service model outlined in the consultation (which used in some other parts of Europe) should be properly considered. Before I could support such a change though, I would need more detailed information and assurance on how this model would work in practice. In particular, what steps will be taken regarding security and what options will library customers be given when seeking information outside of staffed hours? 

I have reviewed the consultation’s options carefully.  I would be grateful if you would please add my views to the consultation responses. In summary, I accept that savings needs to be made in libraries funding and that therefore changes need to be made to how libraries are run and staffed. 

I believe that all the libraries in my constituency should be kept open. I would urge you to rule out closure proposals. Options Two and Three are not acceptable. Option One could potentially become a basis of a sustainable way forward for our libraries in Barnet, but a number of crucial questions need to be answered before the case is made for Option One.

People will have to decide themselves how much of a similarity, if any, there is between the above and Cllr Alison Moore's motion for the next Council meeting


Video: Barnet Labour's Housing Commission Session Five 23 Feb 2015


The Barnet Labour Group has confirmed the following speakers for tonight’s Housing Commission session:
Cllr Mick O'Sullivan - Chair of Housing Scrutiny Committee, LB Islington and Chair of the London Federation of Housing Co-ops
Cllr David Rodgers - Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing, LB Ealing, former CEO of CDS Co-operatives, the largest co-operative housing service agency in England, President of the International Co-operative Alliance Housing from 2009-2012 and member of the Executive of the Labour Housing Group,

Bloggers Panel:
John Dix (aka Mr Reasonable)
Theresa Musgrove (aka Mrs Angry / Broken Barnet)

Trades Union Panel:
Patrick Hunter - Barnet UNISON convenor, Barnet Homes
Cllr Nagus Narenthira - NASUWT
Cllr Barry Rawlings - Barnet Labour’s Spokesperson on Health and Adults Social Care
The meeting takes place on Monday 23 February 7pm-10pm at the Grahame Park Community Centre, Colindale NW9 5UY.
Full unedited footage of the three hours proceedings below. 



Andrew Dismore reveals his 'Plan' for Hendon to all

This afternoon, presumably after five years of gestation since last being MP for Hendon, Andrew Dismore AM released his plan for Hendon on twitter.

So we, no doubt as excited as everyone else, clicked on the link to the plan and it was revealed before our very eyes...