Dear Camden New Journal,
Whatever the truth of Cllr Angela Pober’s allegations against her former Labour group colleagues regarding the campaign opposing the closure of West Hampstead library, the accusations pose serious questions over the current public consultation over the future of Camden library services. The current consultation is set to run until Tuesday 6 October, and Camden UNISON was already concerned about its weighted design that can only prove divisive.
If this were, in fact, a genuine exercise to gauge the views of service users, how can West Hampstead already be safe (at least for now)? And if West Hampstead is secure, what other services face the prospect of further cuts or complete closure?
The Council is urging the public to choose what services should go, setting library against library. The survey offers no opportunity for service users to state what they value about the service as a whole. UNISON strongly encourages library users toconsider the service in its totality. Each library has a unique role to play, some serving their immediate neighbourhood and others the wider Camden community.
The alternatives to library closures offered in the consultation range from more services run by volunteers through to more self- service and even outsourcing. UNISON fails to see how staffing our remaining libraries and home library service with volunteers, handing our libraries over to an outside organisation, cutting opening hours or opening buildings without staff is either practicable, sustainable or accountable. And the consultation document provides no indication of how management has calculated the projected savings from any of these options.
In UNISON’s view libraries and the public are best served bykeeping the service entirely under council control and staffed by .We oppose the cuts outright.
As well as the vital role libraries have in supporting literacy and learning, they are the hub of our communities and the loss of local services would inevitably lead to a reduction in community cohesion and an increase in social isolation, so impacting on other already overstretched and threatened services.
UNISON urges residents completing their consultation forms to question the necessity for these cuts. The service has already been sliced to the bone. In the last four years spending on library services virtually halved. There have been the usual calls to make “backroom” efficiencies but there is no “backroom” work left to cut! The required £800,000 cut is a relatively small amount in terms of Camden’s overall budget crisis, but comes to another18% of the library budget. Such a cut would do massive and irreversible damage to Camden’s library service.
Please sign our petition to resist these cutshttp://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-camdens-libraries
George Binette Camden Unison Branch Secretary
Claire Marriott Unison Convener Culture & Environment
Jan North Unison Library steward