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Families campaign outside DCMS department against cuts to Barnet’s library services

PUBLISHED: 13:38 24 July 2018

Teenagers taking part in the protest against cuts to library services outside the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in Whitehall

Teenagers taking part in the protest against cuts to library services outside the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in Whitehall

Archant

Families marched on Whitehall yesterday in protest against Barnet’s cuts to library services.

During the demonstration yesterday, the 30 people gave an invitation to the new Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, for him to go to Barnet and see how libraries are working under the new system.

Reforms to library services mean fewer youngsters aged under-18 can get access to libraries in the borough.

Teenagers aged 15, 16 and 17 year olds need a parental consent form signed.

Meanwhile younger children need an adult to go with them to the library, when it is operating on an unstaffed basis.

Nine-year-old Tommy Gubbins, who was on the protest, said: “I can walk home alone from school but I’m not allowed into the library on my own? Really? That’s so stupid!”

Barnet Council has pointed to difficulties safeguarding children when an adult member of staff isn’t available.

Barnet spent £14m in 2017 to remove a host of a staff and install CCTV and pin code access into the libraries.

Mum-of-two Emily Burnham, of Save Barnet Libraries said: “We hope that the new culture secretary will realise that access to staffed libraries is a crucial issue. We know that library use has dropped drastically over the past year.”

In last year’s summer reading challenge, there were only 1500 entries compared with 4000 the previous year.

According to campaigners, only 18,000 of the 187,000 library card holders in the borough have applied for a pin code.

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.

“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 pc last year.”

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