Labour councillors have calculated that the Barnet Tories are planning to cut the libraries budget by up to £2.85m or 60% - a cut that would likely mean library closures, privatisation of libraries or substantial reductions in opening hours.
The savings target of £5.1m allocated for "redesigning services" for the Children, Educations and Libraries' Committee (CELS) was announced in the budget planning report at the June meeting of Policy & Resources Committee (P&R). This includes the Education & Skills service, the Early Years service/ Children's Centres and the Libraries Service.
Committee reports published over the last few weeks show that the individual savings target for the Education and Skills service is £1.55m (CELS Education and Skills report last week) and the savings target for Children's Centres/ the Early Years service is £700k (CELS budget reporting June).
This leaves a savings target of £2.85m for the Libraries service, which is 60% of the total libraries service budget of £4.8m.
It is not possible to cut 60% of the libraries budget without closing libraries and/or privatising them or reducing their hours substantially, and Labour councillors have launched a petition to give local residents the chance to support our public libraries and keep them open.
The petition 'Your local library is under threat: Save our library service' states:
“We the undersigned petition Barnet council to keep our local libraries open.
Libraries provide a place from which to borrow books, to get access to free information and ICT, they provide community space for social activities, reading groups, early years services for young mums and toddlers, they help prevent the social isolation of olderpeople, support children’s literacy and learning development, provide study space for students, are a place for job-seekers to look and apply for work and improve their work based skills, and can be a base for entrepreneurs to create business support and development hubs. They are the heart of local communities and need to be supported.”
Please follow the link below to sign the petition:
Labour Libraries spokesperson Cllr Anne Hutton said, "Cutting 60% of the libraries budget makes library closures or privatisation likely.
“It looks like Barnet’s Libraries will be the next local casualty of the Conservative-led government’s austerity drive and the Barnet Tories’ callous ‘One Barnet’ response to that austerity drive.
"Library closures rip the heart out of local communities, but we know from The Tories' attempt to close Friern Barnet Library how much local people value their libraries and can come together to save them.
"The public need to be told about the threat to their local libraries so they can be given an opportunity to express their support for them - without that support many Barnet libraries could be closed for good."
1. Details of the published savings targets:
“• Redesigning services – c£5.1m including:
o Considering the option of an alternative delivery model for the Education and Skills service, in order to ensure the continued provision of high quality services through a partnership approach that brings together resources from different sectors; ;
o Improved targeting of early years support to ensure a reduction in the number of children and young people entering social care; and
o An evidence led review of the Library service to consider a new model of library services, utilising the latest technology to reduce overheads whilst maintaining a comprehensive network.” (Policy & Resources Committee, June 2014)
“5.4 Within the savings target set by the Policy and Resources Committee, the Education and Skills service is required to deliver savings of £850k between 2016/17 and 2019/20, in addition to savings of £700k that were agreed as part of the Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2015/16 in February 2014.” (Children, Education, Libraries & Safeguarding Committee, September 2014)
“Savings through reduction in expenditure on Children’s Centres - £700k 2015/16” (Children, Education, Libraries & Safeguarding Committee, June 2014)
For more information contact Cllr Anne Hutton: email@example.com
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8 359 2568