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Save Barnet Library campaigners battling cuts call for support over public inquiry

PUBLISHED: 12:54 17 January 2018

Campaigners battling cuts to library services in Barnet have called for help after the government threatened to refuse their call for a public inquiry. Picture: ERINI RODIS

Campaigners battling cuts to library services in Barnet have called for help after the government threatened to refuse their call for a public inquiry. Picture: ERINI RODIS

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Campaigners battling cuts to library services are urging supporters to send in written appeals to the government calling for a public inquiry.

Barnet Council decided in April 2016 to axe staff, offer self-service opening hours and open up library buildings to commercial uses in the face of budget cuts.

Barnet is expected to make £2.2million savings out of £61.5m it needs to cut by 2020. Library users now need pin codes to access buildings, but critics of the move say teenagers are being shut out and pensioners feel vulnerable in unmanned spaces.

Barnet now pays security guards to police unstaffed venues.

Save Barnet Libraries campaigners called on former culture secretary Karen Bradley to set up a public inquiry into the library cuts, claiming Barnet was failing to provide a comprehensive service.

However, at the end of last year Karen Bradley wrote to Barnet leader Richard Cornelius saying she was “minded not to order” an inquiry, but set a deadline of February 2 for further appeals to be submitted.

Campaigner Emily Burnham, of East Finchley, said the response doesn’t grapple with the long term impact of the cuts despite “stark” evidence from parents, children and residents.

She added: “Restrictions on children’s library use are particularly troubling. The governemnt talks about raising literacy standards but in Barnet many families can’t even enter their library most of the time.”

“It is essential the culture minister hears from people with first hand knowledge of what these cuts mean,” she added.

Barnet’s education chief Cllr Reuben Thompstone welcomed the secretary of state’s position.

He said: “We have redesigned our service to allow us to keep all 14 libraries open, as well as our home, mobile and digital library resources, whilst delivering vital savings. There has been a very positive uptake with the self-service facility, with more than 17,000 people having signed up.”

Retired deputy headteacher John Pickering wrote in his appeal: “Libraries are a cornerstone in our communities. They promote a love of learning and lifelong regard for books. Barnet needs libraries to be as accessible as possible to all.

Send representations to Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ.

They can also be emailed to enquiries@culture.gov.uk with ‘Barnet Library services – minded to representations’ in the subject line.

Representations should be sent by 5pm on Friday, February 2.

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