|Coleman ruled the roost before he blew it all|
At the time, I was incensed. Over the years, I've come to realise that Brian was right. Not that the public are too ignorant to be given a say in such matters, but in his assertation that consultations are a waste of money. We have just seen a library consultation, where the public comprehensively rejected all of the Barnet Tories ideas for reform of the Library service. What did the Tories do? They did exactly what they did in the days of Brian Coleman. They completely ignored the public. They have come up with a set of proposals that take no account of the views of the local populace. Will any of them have the cojones to echo Colemans comments that ordinary people are too stupid to actually make any useful contribution?
My own library in Mill Hill will be robbed of all its trained librarians. The idea is that it will be run by local volunteers. It seems the arguments that a professional librarian is a professional trade and requires a qualification counts for nothing. The Tories see the library as a large room with a load of books in. They don't see the need for anything more than Lidl style shelve stackers. The fact that a little old Lady in a wheelchair may come in with her granddaughter and say "I read Wuthering heights by Emily Bronte last week and really enjoyed it, can you recommend something in a similar vein in large print, as my eyesight is not what it was?" is not something they care about. Or the student who comes in and says "I am doing an A Level History project on the battle of Agincourt, what are good reference books to help me fill in the gaps in my knowledge about the period?". Or even the refugee who is trying to get a job and says "I have an interview for a job on Monday, are there any good books which can help me brush up my interview technique". Now as far as I can see, answering each of these questions has served a useful social purpose. For each of the people mentioned above, it could make a difference. I suppose a local Tory may say "do such people really exist?". Well each case is based on my own experience of libraries. My mother was severely disabled following a stroke. When she first came out of hospital, her only joy in life was a trip to the library in a wheelchair to select a large print book. My daughter has just started a degree course in history and did much of her reasearch from books borrowed from the library. As for the refugee. I volunteer at a homeless day centre and often recommend a trip to the library to jobless, homeless refugees. Not so long ago, one of the clients at the centre came in and told me he'd got a job. He bought me a book as a present. He said "Thank you so much for your recommendation of going to the library, I actually got my job talking to someone there". That is another function of libraries which is much understood by the bean counting Tory service cutters. They are a community hub.
But none of this matters. When I first started writing blogs, I had an intense dislike of Brian Coleman. As time went on, I realised that I was wrong. Brian was just a window into the thinking of the rest of his Tory colleagues. However misguided and wrong headed I thought he may be, he simply said in public what all f his colleagues say in private. If this wasn't true, they'd have kicked him out long before he got a criminal record. In fact, in many policies Brian was probably one of the more sensible and moderate Tories. It is a matter of record that he opposed One Barnet and his more Thatcherite mates ignored him.
The sad truth is that with all the money they've spent on the consultation, they could have afforded a few more librarians. Consultations are big business in local and national government. They are almost universally totally ignored. Take Heathrow or any major road. These are universally opposed by the local populace. Why wouldn't they be? The locals get no benefits and nothing but hassle. What is crazy is that it is often a legal requirement to consult but there is none at all to listen. Which is why, Brian Coleman was right. Why go through the pretence? Simply scrap the whole stupid charade and spend the money on something useful, like librarians perhaps?