Just back from an excellent talk by Tim Coates at Kensal Rise Library. Tim, previously managing director of Waterstones, campaigns for improvements to the public library service in London, and he had taken a close look at Brent's figures...
For starters Tim pointed out a discrepancy of £299,863 between the figure given for the library service cost in 2010/11 in Brent's consultation document (£5,514,413) and the figure Brent gave to the government (£5,814,276). £300,000 matters when Brent is trying to save £1,000,000!
Tim then went through the items which make up the total cost of running the library service - please don't abandon ship here even if you don't like figures - this is really worth knowing about
If you're still reading, this is how it goes
Computer systems £412,368
Which makes £4,326,168
You might wonder what else there could be - it looks like you could build a library service from the above, but you'd be wrong...
You've forgotten about other apparent essentials (or "non library costs") like
Stock support £141,590
Which bring the total up to £5,514,413.
So, asked Tim, why aren't Brent trying to save £1,000,000 from items in the second list ?. Why are they saying the only way to save the money is to close half the libraries? It could be that the second list represents the Head of Libraries' empire. As Tim put it, it's the box we've never looked in until now. We didn't need to until libraries came under threat of closure.
So Tim's first point was that Brent don't need to close any libraries to make the necessary saving - they need to cut back on some of the items in the second list.
His next suggestion was that all London libraries should be run by a not-for-profit trust - the London Public Libraries Trust - you might have read about it already in the Evening Standard in January. Across London the library service in the 32 boroughs costs £200,000,000, of which £50,000,000 of costs are probably unnecessary - like the £36 average cost for a book transfer. That's when you order a book from another library, a team of people swing into action and the book is chauffered across London.
That's all very interesting, I hear you say (if you've got this far without any photos), but will Brent listen? Tim's proposal has already been put to Brent council on behalf of all 6 threatened libraries.
Here's what we can all do
1. E-mail our councillors and tell them that we won't vote for them next time if they don't stand up for the libraries. If they're labour councillors they need to make their views known to the members of the Executive (as they will make the decision on 11th April). If they are lib dems or conservatives the Executive won't listen to them anyway. Find out who they are here
2. E-mail Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture at email@example.com and copy in your MP (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) saying that we object to Brent's proposals to close 6 libraries and that we are not satisfied that Brent are fulfilling their duties to provide a library service. If 20,000 people can be bothered to e-mail Jeremy Hunt in Lewisham, I'm sure we can too.
3. Don't give up! Have a look at Tim Coates' blog
And, as a thank you for reading all this, here's a photo of a hedgehog who's seen better days