Category Archives: Libraries

Fire safety issues in Barnet Libraries

Over the last year Barnet UNISON have been very concerned about Fire Safety in Barnet Libraries.

This arose because the Council were slow in providing Fires Risk Assessments (FRAs) for Libraries and in complying with the actions resulting from these assessments.

During 2017 Library buildings were altered as part of the Library Program. This included internal structural changes and the installation of technology to permit unstaffed opening hours. These changes meant that the building’s Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) needed reviewing and replacing.

In addition a new Library, Finchley Church End was opened in September 2017 which also required a Fire Risk Assessment

UNISON began asked the Council for these Fire Risk Assessment prior to library staff returning to each site and before the Libraries opened to the public.

However the Council only produced these FRA weeks and months after library staff and the public were admitted to the Libraries.

Examples include;

1. North Finchley Library reopened to the public on the 12th June 2017

The FRA issued on the 24th August 2017

2. Golders Green Library reopened to the public on the 3rd July 2017

The FRA issued on 10th August 20.17

3. Osidge Library reopened to the public on the 26th June 2017

The FRA issued on the 16th August 2017

The FRAs when they were produced identified a number of actions for the Council to carry out. The majority of these were described as a

  • “…..a potential contravention of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or a high risk to Health & Safety from fire”

The deadline for complying with most of these actions was three months from the issue of the FRA.​​

A few of the issues are listed below:

  • Replacing Fire Doors at some with doors with the required level of fire Resistance
  • Fire Refuge Area communication system not working at a number of sites
  • The Emergency Lighting untested at a number of sites
  • No record of the five yearly structural inspection of the external fire escapes at a number of libraries
  • Incomplete Fire Safety signage missing at a number of sites
  • Smoke seals needed for doors at a number of libraries
  • Insufficient numbers of fire extinguisher at one site
  • Fire extinguisher incorrectly mounted at a number of sites
  • Fire door not closing correctly at one library
  • Basement area at one library requiring upgrading to required level of fire resistance
  • Width of staff exit at one site below recommendations
  • Confirmation needed that there is fire separation in the roof void between the library and the commercial use area at one site

Barnet UNISON have been inspecting Libraries to see if the FRA actions have been carried out. In most cases these have not been completed. UNISON have raised this at a number of escalating meetings to the highest level and in our inspection reports.

But no real evidence was presented to Barnet UNISON by the Council that most of the issues had been resolved. Barnet UNISON informed the Council on a number of the occasions that if this continued we would be compelled to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to report our concerns.

Despite this the Council failed to meaningfully respond and with regret Barnet UNISON reported our concerns to the Health and Safety Executive.

The Council have since then provided UNISON with a plan of works to act upon the FRAs but while this is welcome. These action should have been completed months ago.

The Council inaction has in UNISON view being largely caused by various Council/Capita management teams’ failure to take responsibility to have the Fire Risk Assessment in place in good time and to respond in sufficient time to resolve the problems identified in these assessments.

Barnet UNISON do not believe these failures have been due to library staff on site, who have reported these problems according to Council  procedures and to their Trade Union , and who have themselves been put at risk by the Council.

Barnet UNISON will continue in our campaign to make Barnet Libraries safe for our members, all Library staff and the public.

To this end we call on the Council to:

  • Ensure that libraries and other Council buildings have up to date FRAs in place before staff and the public are admitted
  • Act speedily and effectively to comply with Fire Risk Assessments
  • Review the management of Fire Safety arrangements and monitoring within the Council
  • Work with UNISON and other concerned parties in addressing the risks and hazards in identified in Fire Risk Assessments.

Please note: The following services are provided by #Capita:

  • Estates
  • Health and Safety
  • Project Management

save barnet libraries – tell us how the cuts affect you

Please share this & help Save Barnet Libaries gather evidence on the impact of the libraries cuts. The Government is considering whether Barnet Council has broken the law which requires them to run “a comprehensive & efficient” library service. This follows from a formal complaint submitted to the Department for Culture Media and Sport by the Save Barnet Libraries campaign.
You can help persuade the Government to rule against Barnet Council by filling out this form on the SBL website >> And SHARE it!

http://www.savebarnetlibraries.org/tell-us-how-the-cuts-affect-you-.html

 

barnet

Barnet UNISON oppose the Council plans for Libraries

British Library, Kings Cross. March to protest about cuts to libraries, museums and the arts. Barnet Unison were on the march along with striking Barnet library staff. 05/11/16  BP AMS

The Council may not plan to close any libraries in the short or mid-term but what is being proposed will reduce their quality, accessibility and  safety and to closures in the long term,

The Council are proposing to cut the staffing budget by 46%.

This means that around 30 library workers are now learning they will lose their jobs. These are men and women who have given years and sometimes decades of service to the people of Barnet.

This is poor reward to a workforce who have consistently achieved percentage scores in the high 90’s for good public satisfaction.

Such a cull of the library workers means that libraries will only be staffed for 30% of the opening times at the most.  The Council claiming that self-service machines and to a less extent volunteer are adequate replacements.

 

The Council are relying on technology to control access to libraries.

People will swipe their library cards through an automatic gate to gain access during these times.

But under 15 years olds unaccompanied by an adult won’t be able to do this. So young people access to our libraries are being severely curtailed.

 

Leaving libraries unstaffed will put those using them at risk.

Monitored CCTV with a response time of thirty minutes is not a sufficient replacement for having staff on site who can prevent incidents escalating and who can respond immediately to emergencies.

 

But not only are human assets of the libraries being lost, the physical space is too.

Barnet libraries are to lose between 15 to 90% of their space.  This means fewer items to borrow. Less space for computers and less space to host events such as story times or author events.

 

The people of Mill Hill, East Barnet, South Friern and Childs Hill will not even have the limited access library service available in the rest of the borough. Their libraries are to be handed over to voluntary groups, who will only be obliged to open for 15 hours a week.

 

The Council justify the wrecking of Barnet Library Service by a claimed need to save money.  The intention being to reduce the library budget by 1.6 million pounds by 2019/20.

 

Yet the Council originally allocated over 6 and a half million pounds to restructure the library service. Recently we have learned that over 14 million pounds are to be spent on library procurements in the next financial year. This is a lot of money to be spent on reducing the assets, efficiency, accessibility and safety of a service.

 

These changes will lead to a decline in use.

 

Why would you use a library that won’t have the books you want, where no help will be available, not enough computers available, where there will be no room to sit and study and where you will feel unsafe?

 

Barnet UNISON hope that this decline will not be used as an excuse by the present administration to close libraries a few years from now.

Instead we ask that the Council withdraw the plans for restructure and to engage in real consultation with library staff at all levels, and the people of Barnet on how to provide a Library service fit for the 21st Century.”

Update on Save Barnet Libraries campaign: Protest with Unison workers on 6th of December

Barnet UNISON Librarylast-ditch-libraries-2 workers 46% of whom are facing the sack are quite rightly outraged by the latest financial information on Council spend which was published last week.

Barnet Council Policy & Resources Committee meets at Hendon Town Hall at 7 pm on Thursday 2 December 2016.

 

It is Agenda Item 10 – Annual Procurement Forward Plan which has caused anger and dismay and disbelief.

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s36302/Appendix%201%20-%20Annual%20Procurement%20Forward%20Plan%202017-18.pdf

Scroll down to point 17 in the procurement plan it reveals proposed spend on Libraries construction of £12 million with additional items 18-25 showing an additional £2.125 million for additional associated costs:

Making a total of £14.125 million.

A quick recap on other Barnet Council spend.

Below are the Agency/Consultancy figures for the last four years.

  • £12,526,943
  • £13,775,546
  • £15,538,090
  • £17,907,052

Making a total of £59, 747,631 million

In the first two quarters of this financial year Barnet Council has spent £9.3 million which, if it continues at this rate, will bring the total spend for this year to over £20 million on Consultants/Agency.

Barnet Council claims it is being forced into the Library changes by a need to cut £2,162 million from the Library Service budget by 2019/20.

Members and Barnet UNISON have been asking a very simple question:

“Is it true that in order to save £2,162 million Barnet Council are spending over £6 million (which does not include redundancy costs) on a project to close four public libraries (by handing them to volunteers), on a project that will restrict access for disabled people and children under 15 and are now planning to spend an additional £14,125 million on construction and associated costs (making a grand total of £20.125 million)?”

This latest revelation seriously calls into question as to why staff are being made redundant and why a service with a 97% Customer satisfaction is being brutally dismantled.

As far as Barnet UNISON is aware the £14.125 million construction and additional costs have never been disclosed in any of the reports going to previous Children’s Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committees.

What can we do?

There is still time to stop the destruction of the Barnet Libraries Service. Barnet UNISON will be speaking at General Functions Committee on Tuesday 6 December at 7 pm at Hendon Town Hall. The Leader of Barnet Council Richard Cornelius is on this committee. The committee could refuse to implement the redundancies which would save the Library Service.

 

Join Barnet UNISON on #6December

5th of November – Call for Stewards for the Save Libraries March

Keith Martin writes:

Hi supporters of libraries, museums, galleries and all who work in them.

Attached is a letter in today’s Ham and High. It is published too in the Barnet Times and, I hope, in the Barnet Press and Camden New Journal, which has a wrap around publicising the National Libraries, Museums and Galleries demo on 5 November.

For this demo, which starts at 12 noon from The British Library and goes via The British Museum to the National Gallery, we shall have the Metropolitan Brass Band and the speakers include Michael Rosen. The march has a KIDS4LIBRARIES group.

The Metropolitimg_0001an Police are allowing us to march on the roads, but they are stretched for resources marshalling another demo the same day and advised us to recruit our own stewards. This we are doing, and our aim is to have thirty yellow-clad volunteer stewards to maintain all our health and safety.

If you are willing to be one of these thirty stewards, please email me your name and email address (keith.martin18@btinternet.com), and I shall see that you receive a briefing on what is required.

The aim of the demo is to stop the cuts to our library, museum and gallery services, and to save the jobs of all who work in them.

There is a national crisis, and we are determined to achieve these aims.

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