Chaos in Barnet as protesters storm council over library cuts

Protesters outside Hendon Town Hall. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Protesters outside Hendon Town Hall. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Protesters opposed to planned £2.85million cuts to Barnet’s library services stormed the council chamber calling on the mayor to resign after he dramatically changed his vote at the last minute.

Hundreds of campaigners waving placards had gathered outside Hendon Town Hall for the full council meeting on Tuesday night calling for the borough’s libraries to be saved.

They were supporting a motion by Labour opposition councillors proposing that the cuts be scrapped and a new consultation be carried out.

Tory mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner had the casting vote on the motion as neither the Conservatives nor Labour had a majority at the meeting.

However he voted in error against his own party’s amendment to reject the Labour motion and push on with the library cuts.

Protesters from the public gallery ran into the chamber shouting “this is outrageous” and calling on the mayor to resign.

The meeting was halted for order to be restored and was resumed after 30 minutes

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Mr Rayner was allowed to vote again to defeat the Labour motion to halt cuts and go back to the drawing board.

More than 2,000 residents who responded to the consultation will now have to wait until June when the council will publish its full proposals.

Options include cutting staff hours by 50 per cent and relying on a telephone service. closing six libraries, or handing four libraries over to the community to run.

Conservative councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, said: “The council voted last night to... properly review the many responses to our wide-reaching consultation and to use any alternative suggestions to produce refined proposals. These will then be subject to full public debate.”

Sarah Sackman, Labour candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, said: “Residents spoke with one voice against the cuts...but the Conservatives dashed their hopes and refused to listen.

“This is a massive mistake that will return to haunt them.”