Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Tri-borough is a stepping stone to privatisation

Unfortunately, in spite of an overwhelming response from staff and readers, thousands of signatures collected and lots more positive action, WCC remained adamant in their positioning and acted against the will of its people in deciding to close St. James's Library. Nevertheless, we thank you all wholeheartedly for your support. It is more valuable and useful than we can express with words, it keeps us going.

It’s not all doom and gloom for our public services! On Wednesday 30th, 20.000 London public sector workers marched to parliament to protect their pensions. According to the Guardian, This was the biggest public sector strike action in 30 years, and it’s not even counting the vast amounts who attended picket lines or refused to go to work on the day.

With around 2million public sector workers on strike and over 50,000 union members, students, parents and patients and more on the London March alone; as a single national action this has been a great success.

Despite comments from David Cameron that this was a 'damp squib', every poll shows public support for the action well in excess of 60%, with some polls showing 80% of the public trusting the public sector over Mr Cameron.

Many managers in Westminster have been supportive of the action and more and more people are getting involved in the protection of public services. These are good times of cooperation and collaboration. Now it’s especially important that we remain well informed and in close communication.

Below you will find some information on what is really going on in Westminster


As you know, WCC is currently merging some of its services with the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham. The purpose behind this is of course to cut costs. Last month a tri-borough management team for libraries was recruited, and by April 2012 restructuring will reach frontline staff (WCC libraries will lose 2 more full-time Library positions).

This project was hailed by the BBC and The Guardian as the Salvation for libraries with the promise that no libraries will be closed due to its implementation. As these articles were being written Westminster was quickly making moves to close St James's Library whilst planning the axing of CHX library and many of it's staff members and services.

There are some positive assets to Tri-borough: hopefully, using the same system will facilitate communication between services across the boroughs, as well as saving on stock and equipment contracts. Further there will be some savings due to the reduction of upper management positions and as the 7th phase of redundancies in Westminster since 2008, this is the first time senior managers will have to face the guillotine before frontline staff.

Unfortunately, it would seem that Tri-borough has actually turned out to be more expensive than the previous setup. We suspect that this is not unexpected. Some staff members have been deployed from their usual jobs to dedicate themselves exclusively to writing “casual” reports on stock suppliers and consortia whilst various libraries have been visited by surveyors without much warning or explanation.

The head of Tri-borough Libraries David Ruse and the Tri-borough team have been providing conflicting information on the issue of “outsourcing” the combine services to a private company, trust or charitable group. Mr Ruse and WCC heads are very careful to make no clear statements sometimes saying outsourcing is unlikely in the near future whilst the project plows forward with regular reports from the tri-borough forum reinstating that they are enroute to this ultimate objective.

All these mysterious moves lead us to believe that WCC are looking to make Council services attractive to private companies. There are various companies interested in taking over the running of the Council, such as LSSI, Cavita and  Laing: Savings on staff, plus harmonization of stock and contracts make us very attractive to these corporations.

Privatisation will result in libraries running for profit instead of as community services. So we would be paying for them from our taxes, but also as service users, for example, by being charged to become library members.

We are as keen as you are to ensure our services remain public, and endeavour to keep you informed of the latest developments. So please do let us know your thoughts on this, and feel free to pass this on to your friends and colleagues.

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