Vice Chair of WEN Eric Leach went to last night’s consultation on Northfields Library, and reports back.
With standing room only at a well attended meeting last night, Ealing Council tried valiantly to defend its proposal to close Northfields Library. The Council plans to close Hanwell, Northfields, Northolt and Perivale Libraries as part of its need to cut £65 million from its running costs for 2011/12.
Council Leader Bell attempted to respond to residents issues and questions which included:
1. Public Libraries are open to all and provide easy, affordable access to information and books to both young and old. Closing public libraries is a sign of a civilisation going backwards.
2. In 2006/7 the Council spent £610,200 on rejuvenating Northfields Library. How can you now just write off that money and close the library down?
3. £2 million is currently being spent to build a new Log Cabin, Scout hut and children’s centre integrated with Northfields Library. How can you now take the library out of this integrated children’s facility?
4 £5.5 million is to be spent on building a new car park in Southall. Set against that it would cost just £89,000/year to keep Northfields Library open. Who are more important here? Cars or people?
5. Why not cut senior Council executive salaries or reduce the number of highly paid senior staff in order to continue funding the complete library service? Currently 20 senior Council staff collectively earn around £2 million /year.
6. £16.3 million is being spent on new Council offces in Acton, Greenford and Southall. Kill this project and use some of the savings to continue the complete library service.
7. Ward Forum budgets could be used to help keep Northfields Library operational.
Councillor Bell made the point over and over again that volunteers could take over running the library. This was clearly offensive to professional, qualified library staff. It did occur to me that he probably wouldn’t make this suggestion in education (volunteers as teachers?) or in healthcare (volunteer brain surgeons?).
There was plenty of political points scoring by both Conservative and Labour Coucillors and the audience showed its complete disdain for this. At one point a member of the audience threw the mobile microphone at the Councillors on the top table. His aim was poor and he didn’t hit any of them!
There is an Ealing Council public consultation on library closure taking place until 5 May. You can access it at www.ealing.gov.uk. Please fill it in. But be careful as the questions (like those in many recent Council consultations) are ‘loaded’. This particular ‘loading ‘ is that the questions give the impression that libraries MUST close when in fact cost savings out of the Council’s £1 billion turnover could be made elsewhere (see issues/questions above).
14 April 2011