MP Mike Freer under fire from Save Barnet Libraries campaigners
PUBLISHED: 16:23 04 October 2017
Library campaigners have accused their MP of misleading the public over how £7million is being spent by a Tory council.
Members of the Save Barnet Libraries group were shocked when a campaign leaflet from Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer dropped onto people’s doormats saying the Conservative run council “is investing” £7m in its local libraries.
Campaigner Emily Burnham said: “I was very surprised because it’s public knowledge that in fact there has been a large scale programme of cuts to library services. ‘Invested’ suggests Barnet is making the service better. We say that’s misleading. Barnet is spending money on making the service worse.”
The council has cut staff hours and now allows users at 10 sites to use pin codes to let themselves in through the doors when libraries are unmanned.
Campaigners say as a result of the redesigned service teenagers are being shut out, impacting on their studies.
They claim disabled users and those aged over 65 are put off visiting because they feel vulnerable in empty libraries.
Ms Burnham said: “We’re concerned the local MP is demonstrating such little knowledge of what is happening in his constituency.”
Responding Mike Freer said: “I appreciate some people might not like the changes Barnet Council has made to secure the future of the library service. Without modernisation the library service would have seen declining usage and closures.”
Mr Freer went on to compare Barnet’s approach to neighbouring Brent which closed half its libraries.
He said: “But Barnet found capital to refurbish premises, invest in new technology, register more than 15,000 self-service users, extend opening hours by 100 hours, and build one brand new library with expanded community facilities. By any definition that is an investment.”
“Across the UK libraries are closing because of declining usage. Barnet moved to a modern operating model to ensure libraries were sustainable and well placed to attract new users.”
Barnet councillor Reuben Thompstone said year 11 students are able to use libraries with parental permission with under 15s getting in with an adult.
He added some libraries have live CCTV and roving security staff during unmanned hours.