Children and adults to issue plea to new DCMS secretary over library restrictions

Children and their parents outside East Finchley Library to protest against Barnet Council's changes

Children and their parents outside East Finchley Library to protest against Barnet Council's changes to the service. Picture: JON KING - Credit: Archant

Angry Barnet parents and children will be campaigning outside the government’s offices on Monday against the borough’s “staff-less” libraries.

They are asking for the new culture secretary Jeremy Wright to launch an inquiry into the borough’s decision.

The children will ask him to come to Barnet personally and see the impact it’s having on them.

Barnet spend £14m in 2017 to remove a swath of staff and install CCTV and pin code access into the library.

Children under 18 are now unable to get into the libraries on their own.

If they are aged 15, 16 and 17 they need parental consent, otherwise they need to be accompanied by an adult.

Mary Beer-Cleasby from Save Barnet Libraries said: “The basic functions of government – such as enforcing the law and ensuring children are not disadvantaged by short-sighted false economies – should not stop for two years.”

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She added: “We urge Mr Wright to [...] act immediately in order to prevent another summer during which children cannot access their libraries.”

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chair of Barnet Council’s community leadership and libraries committee, said: “Following extensive consultation, we redesigned a library service which has allowed us to keep open all of the borough’s 14 libraries - two of which are brand new library buildings - as well as home and mobile services.

“Once fully implemented, self-service opening will see the hours libraries are available to our residents increase to around 900 a week, compared to 630 hours under the previous model. There has been a very positive up-take from people, with more than 25,000 residents already signed up.

“During staffed hours, there is no change to the way children can access libraries, and children can make use of the new extended opening hours when accompanied by an adult. We recently surveyed more than 500 young people in the borough and satisfaction with libraries has gone up – from 72 per cent in 2016 to 76 per cent last year.”