Wednesday 22 December 2010

My reply to Robert Rams re libraries

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010 6:38 PM
Subject: Re: Extremely Urgent : Library consultation

Dear Councillor Rams,
As the co-ordinator of a campaign to preserve the libarary service in Barnet, a campaign which as received national TV and press coverage and been widely recognised as a "model" campaign, I feel entitled to point out a few facts. Firstly thousands of people have signed up to support the petition. As the spokesperson for a huge number of Barnet residents, I would have thought that you would have realised that this makes me a representative stakeholder in this process. I have spoken with thousands of ordinary people in th course of the campaign as well as to national press and the BBC. Now it may be that in Barnet, citizen participation is not encouraged, but I personally doubt that this will improve the quality of decisionmaking.
As to your other comment. You initially stated that you did not recognise your plans in the wording of the petition. I specifically asked you which parts of the petition were incorrect. It is a very simple and straightforward question, but you are clearly unable or unwilling to answer it, which implies that you accept that the assumptions drawn about your review are correct.
I find your comments about the good job done by your predecessors rather strange. Are you claiming that because previous Conservatives did a good job, you should be able to destroy the Library service? Normally a consultation works by someone saying "We intend to do this, please give us your views on our plans". In the case of Barnet, you are saying "fill in a blatently rigged questionairre and then we'll make a decision, excluding everyone else, behind closed doors, and you can wait till the decisions been made to comment". That is not a constructive consulation, that is called a stitch up. Your comments about "you want services to be unchanged" rather give the game away. It is not the services which require changing, it is how they are managed and delivered. Barnet is top heavy. Barnet spends a fortune on consultants who deliver nothing except reports recommending more reports. Barnet spends millions rectifying badly drawn up contracts with suppliers. These are areas which are ripe for savings. Sadly these are areas which Barnet completely ignore. Your colleague Matthew Offord confirmed to me a couple of years ago that 15% of management in Barnet Council deliver nothing. It is clear from your own accounts that this number has gone up steeply since Matthew made the comment. If you want to change something and save money, change this.
I launched the library petition to try and prevent you from making a bad decision and to give you ammunition with which to preserve the service. It is clear that when you actually announce cuts, a far larger campaign will kick off and much damage will be done to your standing. I would strongly suggest that you heed the sentiments of the petition and read some of the comments on the on-line version. It is not too late to change tack and show that you are receptive to the views of the ordinary people. I may add that with regards to the petition, we've made a policy of running stalls in Conservative wards (Mill Hill, Finchley, High Barnet, Edgware and your own ward East Barnet). We chose these areas specifically for this reason. We wanted to ensure that the vast majority of people we engaged with were Conservative supporters, as we felt these people would be most likely to help you see sense. I must report that we received a very warm welcome and many of your supporters were alarmed by your comments and plans. I caution you that you ignore your own grassroots at your peril.
You also claimed that it would be illegal for a councillor to receive the petition. I asked for clarification of why. You have not yet provided this. Please could you do this as a matter of urgency.
Have a pleasant weekend
Roger M. Tichborne
Coordinator of the Save Barnet Libraries Campaign.