The Independent London Newspaper
22nd February 2017

FORUM: Delusion that endangers your library, says West Hampstead Councillor Phil Rosenberg

    ‘Not a Labour-only campaign’: Phil Rosenberg

    ‘Not a Labour-only campaign’: Phil Rosenberg

    Published: 6 October, 2015
    by PHIL ROSENBERG

     

    NOW that the library consultation is on the point of coning to an end, Camden residents urgently need to make their voices heard.

    It’s certainly been a confusing couple of weeks in West Hampstead.

    Is the library safe or isn’t it? 

    Has the threat of closure and cuts, and a campaign to save the library, been concocted as some sort of conjuring trick, purely to gain credit for a political party? 

    The answer, quite simply, is “no” on all counts.  

    I would go further still. 

    The notion that we don’t need to do this, that we should forget the library and focus on other things, is not just a mistake. It is a dangerous delusion.

    Like all the libraries in Camden, West Hampstead faces threats from the need to save £800,000 forced by central government cuts. 

    While none of the councillors wants to close libraries, closure has to be considered among other options and the closure of West Hampstead Library is specifically listed as an option in Camden's consultation on how to make the savings.

    As I understand it, a good public response to the consultation saying that we don’t want the library shut will help senior colleagues to make the decision they want to make, that is, no closures. 

    But this can’t be guaranteed, and certainly not without our action.

    Beyond the closures, there is still a risk of significant cuts to the library so our cross-party “Save West Hampstead Library!” campaign has been designed to get as many people as possible to have their say, engage in discussion of what they want in their library service, how they would make the savings, and how we might even be able to bring in revenue. 

    It has been a tremendous success so far and has hopefully helped West Hampstead’s position, but we need everyone to fill in the consultation to make sure that the library is saved and that cuts don’t stop this being the library service we need.

    This is not the first time West Hampstead residents have had to defend our library from closure, and experience tells us it is unlikely to be the last. 

    We need to be active in responding to the consultation, and in keeping up engagement and support for the library afterwards as well to ensure that it remains sustainable. And on this business of “credit-seeking”, what seems to have been missed is that this was not a Labour-only campaign. 

    It was a cross-party, cross-community effort. 

    Of course, Labour spoke with pride that we got this started, that we started a petition that has gathered over 1,700 signatures. 

    But we have long been clear that this is a campaign that transcends narrow party interests and so we have run local street-stalls and events with all the local parties and community organisations. This collective approach is hardly a good recipe for “going it alone” or claiming sole credit. 

    The local Tories have naturally tried to make much of the recent confusion. 

    Fair enough – that’s their job as our opposition. 

    But they have short memories. At first they tried to claim their own credit by trying to launch a separate library campaign, which amounted to a few blokes taking a selfie on the steps of the library. 

    I was glad that they eventually saw sense and joined our wider, more inclusive effort. 

    An issue as crucial as our library should be bigger than party politics.   

    The mistaken idea that the library is safe might be an honest misunderstanding, but it endangers our library because if people now become complacent, and don’t engage, the consultation results might suggest that the local community does not care about our library, and it could be a target for closure or severe cuts. 

    That would be a tragedy for everyone. 

    The consultation is coming to an end today (October 6) and we need to make our voices heard. 

    Make sure you get the best possible result for your library by having your say at: www.camden.gov.uk/future libraries 

    • Cllr Phil Rosenberg is a Labour councillor for West Hampstead ward

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