Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Stepping back!

Just to let everyone know that I'm stepping back from campaigning for a while and won't be posting anything. Keep up the fight.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The last leg of the Save Barnet Libraries March (or Campaigning can be Cathartic)

I know some of you who know me well know that I'm currently off work with depression and anxiety, the main triggers being work-related stress and my dad's death several years ago. I've been really struggling for the last few years but it all came to a head a couple of months ago when i broke down in the street on my way to work. I feel tearful and agitated a lot of the time but will get better eventually with support, counselling and lots of walking. I did try SSRI's but couldn't cope with the side-effects and anyway the medication route was never really one i was happy with.

"What the hell has this got to do with the Save Barnet March or campaigning?" I hear you say. Well if it wasn't for my campaigning and the network I've built up I would be feeling far worse than I already do.
Campaigning is cathartic and my fellow campaigners are my support network.

Anyway, today I took my therapists' and Doctors' advice (get out more, meet people and walking) and attended and spoke at the last leg of the Save Barnet Libraries March. 100's of us walked about 7 miles via 4 libraries and myself and Alan Gibbons (Author and Library Campaigner) gave what I hope were inspiring and rebel rousing speeches especially after the recent horrific election result.

All in all a fantastically inspiring day which was brilliantly organised by Barnet Unison and the Barnet campaigners. They deserve the full solidarity and support of every library user, supporter, worker, union member and campaigner up and down the land.

So get out there and organise, march, protest and fight. Show solidarity and give support to those who need it.

Here's some photos;


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Official statement by Bromley Unite on the libraries strike.




Solidarity and thanks to Bromley Unite for the following statement;

"Members of the Unite trade union have been taking strike action this week in defence of Bromley Libraries.
The Council are considering privatisation via market testing, transfer to a social enterprise and also replacing professional library staff with volunteers.
The public consultation organised by the Council did not allow the public to opt to keep libraries council controlled and run by paid, professional staff. The union therefore responded with a consultation exercise of its own - the result being that over a thousand people responded - every single one opposed to the Council proposals. Council officers had agreed that should there be evidence that the public opposed the options put forward by the Council, it would lead to a rethink. But so far, no rethink has taken place. In response, Union members in libraries, along with Unite members across the Council voted by over 80% to take strike action. The dispute is also to protest an attack by the Council on the trade union.
It is no coincidence that at the same time as beginning a mass privatisation programme across the Council that includes libraries, the Council have agreed to withdraw all facility time arrangements from the Branch Secretary - who happens to be a library worker!!
The strike action will involve library members from 27th April to 30th April, with the whole branch coming out on strike on 1st May, 7th and 19th May. Workers from Parks and Adult Services who also face privatisation are out on strike on 5th May and from 13th to 18th May. A march against privatisation, in particular highlighting the threat to libraries has been earmarked by Unite nationally for 13th June - the march will demonstrate through Bromley, targetting the massive majority Tory borough and showing it as the nightmare scenario faced by the rest of the country if we do not act now!
The strike action of library members has been incredible. solid support from members along with fanstastic public support has shown the great support that exists for public libraries. The action has also been effective - leading to library closures as a result of the strike action.
As Unite Branch secretary Kathy Smith made clear on the picket line, this is not about letting off steam - it's a fight to the finish to save our services!"

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Advocacy under austerity, Vaizey, Northamptonshire and donations and cynical electioneering.

Advocacy under austerity

A rather excellent piece by Pedronicus on advocacy and austerity in response to a recent CILIP blog;
"In the present climate, where services are immediately and imminently under threat of extinction, in those instances I do not see any alternative other than what has been termed “protest advocacy”. There is not time to think in terms of “changing the narrative”, or “building relationships”. Libraries do not need more or even better advocacy: they need actual money to be available in local authority budgets which have been cut to impossibly low levels. They need to be nurtured and sustained at the level of national and local policy by people who are not driven by neoliberal ideology. On the level of our whole society, it needs ALL of us to reflect long and hard on whether we want to continue to allow our lives and those of our communities to be directed by values that see no worth in anything other than its monetary value or ability to generate income.
If we do that maybe we can collectively start to find some real answers."

and another very splendid piece by Ian Clark on the very same topic;
Vaizey, Northamptonshire and donations
The man who would rather not intervene, Ed Vaizey, visited a library in Northamptonshire recently. "Big deal" I here you say, well Northamptonshire is Paul Blantern (CEO of the county council and Chair of the Sieghart Taskforce) territory. Ed had some interesting things to say during his visit, things that outline the governments policy on libraries; donations, volunteers, philanthropy, hubs and private/public models.
"The visit comes weeks after the county council unveiled a new public donation scheme aimed enhancing library services.
The scheme however sparked fears that libraries in the county are under threat of closing down, something which was quickly denied by the local authority, who said it was just 'an example of the constant work in the county to make sure libraries are hubs at the very heart of our communities'.
When the Northants H&P asked Mr Vaizey for his thoughts on the scheme he said: "Libraries actually originally came into fruition mainly through generous donations.
"Andrew Carnegie is the most famous person who is responsible for hundreds of libraries in the UK, and back them libraries didn't become a statutory so they didn't start being paid for by the rate payer till about 100 years ago.
"We have a private public model for a lot of things such as local arts organisations, which gets government grants to cover the basics but they also raise money from people who support those organisations."

Cynical Electioneering

Oh you know how the government has cut local council grants by 30-50% and has refused to re-introduce the abolished English library standards and has abolished the Advisory Council for Libraries and has handed the development remit for libraries to an arts organisation and them cut it's funding and hasn't bothered to replace (as far as we know?) Yinnon Ezra (DCMS Specialist Advisor for Libraries) and sat on the Sieghart Report until one day before the xmas recess and has allowed Ed Vaizey to do bugger all about superintending the 64 Act and how 6000 library staff have lost their jobs since 2007/8 and how several hundred libraries have been closed or are at risk of closure and how 12% of all public libraries are now volunteer-led, WELLLL now they've decided that they want to promote library membership for children, is there an election coming up?


LSSI target Bakersfield raising a possible conflict of interest and Union concerns.

Library supporters concerned about privatization talk

"The idea that Kern County might take its 25 libraries and bookmobile operation private has been whispered around the county since supervisors hired Kern County Library Director Nancy Kerr in late October.
Kerr previously managed the Valencia Branch Library in the Santa Clarita library system, which was run by Library Systems & Services LLC, a for-profit Maryland company that runs public libraries across the nation.
Kerr did not return calls requesting comment on the privatization proposal. Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations said because Kerr was an LSSI employee, she has been directed to stay out of the discussion for a full year."

Debate rages over civil service rules and library privatization
"Talk of hacking civil service rules and privatizing the Kern County Library system seem to have put a crimp in the relationship between the Kern County Board of Supervisors and Kern's largest employee union."

for more on this story see;

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."


Saturday, 28 February 2015

Lambeth and Bromley.


Lambeth are once again looking to cut their library service, not very 'co-operative' of the 'co-operative council'!

Lambeth Council Cultural Consultation: Libraries hardest hit as residents asked to patch up service
"Lambeth Council wants to close the Minet and Waterloo Libraries. It proposes to flog on the land to developers. £10m is expected to be raised. This will then be invested in an endowment fund. Profit from this will then ‘enable’ residents to run the Durning, Carnegie and Upper Norwood Libraries. Council funding for these three will stop.
Ending the funding for 50% of libraries in Lambeth is essentially on the table here. The Minet and Waterloo account for 8% of all library books borrowed in the borough. The other three libraries where funding will be stopped make up 15% of library use – that’s 23% of Lambeth library book borrowing being wiped out."

Campaigners loudly protest latest budget cuts
"As well as libraries, children’s centres and day centres are also in the firing line,” said Jon Rogers, Lambeth Unison branch secretary. “We will contest every single cut.”

see also;
Rosamund Urwin; Our libraries and parks should never be under threat

for the consultation see;

for the petition see;

and for how to join/support the campaign see;


Bromley are taking a leaf or two out of Barnet's book and looking to privatise most of their services and workforce, withdraw union facility time and last but not least decimate it's library service.

Last chance to have say on libraries
"Library users can provide their views on proposals for Community Management at the six community libraries in the borough and market testing for the management of the core service."

Bromley staff balloted for strike action over ‘privatisation’ plans
"Council staff in Bromley are being balloting for strike action over claims it is to reduce its workforce from 3,000 to 300.
Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: ‘Unite is drawing a line in the sand over the drive by this Tory council hell-bent on privatising and outsourcing much valued public services, such as libraries."
see also;

Save Bromley Libraries Facebook Group