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Tory MP Mike Freer joins Labour in slamming Barnet library cuts plan

PUBLISHED: 10:54 25 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:54 25 February 2015

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer has warned Barnet Council not to close libraries in his constituency after the council completed a public consultation on plans to cut nearly £3million from its libraries service.

Former Barnet Council leader Mr Freer slammed the three-month consultation carried out by the council, which was completed on Sunday, as “flawed” and “only half a conversation”.

In October, Barnet Council published proposals to cut £2.85m from the borough’s libraries service, raising the prospect of closing East Finchley and Childs Hill libraries to help deal with £72m government funding cuts over the next five years.

Mr Freer has been criticised by Sarah Sackman, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, for failing to speak publicly about the cuts until now and for not attending a public meeting about the threatened closure of Childs Hill Library.

He said: “I’m fully supportive of the need to modernise but I’ve said to the leader very firmly that neither Childs Hill nor East Finchley can be left without a library. I don’t want to see my communities left without libraries.

“The consultation is flawed because it’s only half a conversation. We need to talk to those who aren’t using the library service to find out why they are not using it.

“We need to find out what the service should look like rather than trimming the service to meet budget requirements.”

As part of the consultation, residents were presented with three options for the future library service, to either:

- Cut staff hours by 50 per cent and rely on a telephone service,

- Close six libraries, or

- Hand four libraries, including East Finchley Library, over to the community to run.

More than 2,000 residents responded to the consultation and will now have to wait until June when the council will publish its proposals for the libraries service.

Barnet Labour leader Cllr Alison Moore has called an extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday to try and convince the Tory administration to re-consult residents.

Ms Sackman said none of the council’s options for the future libraries service were “good enough”.

A Barnet Council spokesman insisted the consultation survey included a section for non-library users.

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