Thursday, 16 February 2012

Barnet - the illiterate council which wants to close a library

Last night I sent this email to Barnet Council :-

From: Roger Tichborne
To: Williams, Jeremy
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 11:30 PM
Subject: Question for Cabinet Meeting on 20th Feb

Dear Mr Williams
I have a question for the cabinet regarding the communities library program.
In the cabinet report concerning the Community Library Process -, Section 9.12 (page 401) states
"Officers met with representative of the Save Friern Barnet Library Group on 8/2/2012
to explain the council’s position in relation to the unaffordable nature of their proposal
and that the Library will move to the Arts Depot. In relation to the possibly of a
community library in the area, discussions are still on-going. A further verbal update
may be provided at the meeting if required."
I initiated a petition which collected over 7,000 signatures, from people wishing to preserve Barnets libraries. This was included as part of the submissions for th strategic library review. At the relevant Council meeting, I requested that Councillor Robert Rams keep me informed of all developments with regards to the process and closure of the libraries. I stated that I would feed back all information to the people who signed the petition. 

Since this commitment was made, Councillor Rams has failed to provide a single update. I now read in the papers that the proposal by the "Save Friern Library" group was deemed "unaffordable". Please can you provide the following :-

A) An explanation as to what "unaffordable" means? Please specify exactly what sum is required to make the proposal "affordable".
B) A breakdown of all help and support given to Friern Library Group by Barnet Council, in relation to their proposal. 

I have been a long term supporter of Barnets libraries on the grounds that they support literacy and education. I wish to also place on record my disgust at the appalling grammar and mangling of the English language in paragraph 9.2 and other sections of this report. As a dyslexic (please excuse my appalling written English) who couldn't read until aged 10, I am only too aware of the importance of literacy. I deplore such use of English in an official council paper and can only conclude that this indicates a total disregard for good grammar and use of English within Barnet Council. I formally ask Barnet Council to launch a programme of education for all staff writing official reports, to ensure that they understand the basics of the English language. It is quite ironic that such appalling English appears in a document which spells the death knell for a library. Even more worrying was the fact that at the bottom of the page it says :-

Finance: MC/JH
Legal: HP/CH

This implies that two people from the finance team and two people from the legal team read this paragraph and signed it off as acceptable. What possible faith can this give us in quality of work performed by  the Barnet Council finance and legal teams as the Council is in the process of drawing up contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds as part of the One Barnet project?
Did the Cabinet Member responsible read the paper prior to issueance and what is his opinion of the grammar and use of English in the above mentioned paragraph?
I have copied the leader of the Council, CEO  and the cabinet member for Libraries into this communication. I trust they will take immediate and appropriate action to ensure that if nothing else, reports are written in decent English. Surely this is not too much to expect from a Council which claims to be Conservative and well run.
Barnet Council has suffered from many financial losses recently due to lack of attention to detail. This report shows that this is still an endemic problem within the council
Roger Tichborne
This is the document I was referring to - -  :-

Community Library Proposal


MS said...

Roger, I share your disgust at the use of English in this and indeed other communications emanating from the Council. Regrettably, as a former member of LBB staff who, at the time of my employment there, was very heavily involved in finalising committee reports prior to publication, I can confirm that such drafting is not a new phenomenon. However, in the past (and I am going back quite a number of years now), it was a fundamental requirement of signing off a report that such errors were corrected. Alas, it seems that written communication is no longer an essential requirement for Council officers - including those who are responsible for servicing the committees and those who are writing to residents directly.
On a more general note, many congratulations once again for the continuing high-quality blog. Keep it up!

Rog T said...

MS - Thanks for the compliment. I try

MS said...

And indeed are very successful!

Rog T said...

I see someone has ticked the rubbish box, to indicate that they don't like the story. Good ! I hope they F'ing hate it !!!!!

Morris Hickey said...

Probably a Barnet councillor.