From: Roger Tichborne
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Sent: Monday, April 16, 2012 7:47 PM
Subject: Re: Proposal for Opening Friern Barnet Peoples Library - Response to Richard Cornelius
Dear Councillor Cornelius
Thank you for your response.
Please let me deal with the points you raise in order.
With regards to Big Society (and localism). The concept David Cameron introduced as a central plank of the Conservative Election strategy in 2010 was one where local communities developed ideas and local authorities supported those communities. The idea that the state (in this case Barnet Council) knows better than the people it serves is an anaethma to modern Conservative thinking. Having implementented many sustainable projects, I happen to know that the first thing required is to build up the expertise in managing such an operation. The Peoples library offers this opportunity and will allow the community to develop an organisational context within which to develop. If the present building is sold off and a new venue arranged, then the Peoples library will be able to hit the ground running with a team that knows how to do the job. Sadly it seems that Barnet Council does not seem to understand the benefits of gaining operational experience or good management practise. Surely you can see the benefits of developing this as part of the sustainability aspect of the scheme?
The Arts Depot facility is to be commended, but the concept of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" cannot be. The capital receipts from the sale of Friern Barnet are clearly not required to open a facility at the Arts Depot, as this is being opened before the Capital receipts are received. I have trouble with the concept of "Landmark" libraries. These have the ring of grandiose schemes dreamed up by bureaucrats in Ivory towers. The people of Friern did not want a Landmark library a mile and a half away, they wanted their local library.
I must also mention that whilst many Friern Barnet residents, especially young mothers with children will be hugely financially penalised by the move. Wheras they can now walk to the local libary, they will either have to go on the bus or pay a £2.00 parking charge, for their children to visit the Arts depot library during the week. For many young families who are strugging to make ends meet, a weekly visit to the library will now cost over £100 a year in parking charges. Hardly inclusive, is it?
As to your comments regarding Councillor Robert Rams. I was informed that a substancial amount of money is required to underpin the structure of East Barnet Library. Your own Council officers told me this. If this is not the case, please let me know and supply me with the budget for maintenance and repairs of East Barnet Library for the next five years. I will happily withdraw this claim, if it turns out I was mislead by Council officers. I must add that I view retention of East Barnet library as just as important as Friern and would support all efforts to retain the facility. My comments mentioning that this Library was in Councillor Rams ward are merely a statement of fact.
As to my "continued attacks" on Councillor Rams. Councillor Rams holds the portfolio for Libraries. I have spoken to many people all over the Borough who are unhappy with the way Councillor Rams has handled his portfolio. The Save Friern Library campaign have claimed Councillor Rams deliberately mislead them for a period of many months over his true intentions for the building and this is backed up by documentary evidence and indeed his own statements in Barnet Council chamber. There are many Conservative Councillors who I hold in high esteem, however due to his behaviour, I believe Councillor Robert Rams to hold the people in Barnet in contempt. I reserve the right to speak of him accordingly. I do not believe that you can claim that the closure of Friern Library has a democratic mandate, as it was not mentioned anywhere in the Conservative manifesto, which you were elected on less than a year before you announced the closure. I would contend that it is the exact opposite, as your plans were deliberately concealed from the electorate. As you were not leader at the time, clearly this is not your fault, but to claim a democratic mandate is clearly very misleading.
You say that Barnet Council has repeatedly stated its intent to work with the Friern Barnet Library group. This is not the case at all. Barnet Council has proposed unsuitable venues and mislead the group as to your plans. Friary House is not accesible to many people. Barnet Council know of this unsuitability. It is in this context that talks have stalled. It strikes me as disingenious to offer a completely unsuitable location. I am rather surprised that you are happy to go along with this outrageous ruse.
As you acknowledge, I welcomed the general outline of the Strategic Library Review. I think that Barnet Council produced a far better plan than many of its neighbours for maintaining a system of libraries. As such in March 2011, we wound down the campaign against Library closures. I acknowledged that Barnet Council had listened to the 8,000 people who signed the petition against the general closure program and commended them for this. I even wrote a blog commending Councillor Rams for his volte face.
I became involved in the Save Friern Barnet Campaign only recently, as a result of requests from local residents. They asked me to, on the grounds that Barnet Council had mislead them. I attended a cabinet meeting and experienced certain Councillors being extremely rude to and about local residents. I was also filled in by many residents involved with the campaign, just how badly let down they felt by the Council. I felt obligated to try and help their campaign for a community hub in Friern Barnet. We initiated the Peoples library on Saturday 14th April, to test the local need for such facilities. Whilst I welcomed the initial announcement of the Strategic Library review, it is clear that it's implementation under Councillor Rams has been botched. It strikes me that Councillor Rams lacks the necessary management skills to oversee such a project. I would be happy to offer Councillor Rams work experience with my company, to help him develop the necessary people skills and management skills to implement such programs in future. I think it is a shame that so few modern politicians benefit from a business background which both you and I share. Maybe you could do the same within your business. Young men such as Rams clearly need wise heads to mentor them.
With regards to your comments about central funding, of course Councils have challenges. It is your job as leader to address them. I would suggest that there are many areas within Barnet Council which could be managed more efficiently. One clear problem is purchasing, where bloggers have exposed scandal after scandal costing the taxpayer millions. This cash could easily have been used to keep Friern Library open, had proper structures been in place.
As to your suggestion that I donate £500 towards the cost of books at the Arts Depot. Are you suggesting that the new landmark library lacks suffient funding to properly equip itself with books? If it does it can hardly be described as a landmark library.
A library with no books is just an empty building, rather like the Friern Library. If you can confirm that the Arts Depot Library is underfunded and requires a public subscription to properly equip it, I will happily donate £500 on the condition that you publicly support me and help me campaign in a borough wide appeal for cash and books to make up for this shortfall. If you can provide details of the shortfall and the cash requirement, I will put together a plan to raise that from local residents and businesses.
I think that is a very fair offer. I look forward to your response.