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Barnet Council 'tables £10,000 offer' to Friern Barnet Library squatters
Barnet Council has offered a group of squatters £10,000 to open their own community library as legal action to have them removed from Friern Barnet begins.
The activists reclaimed Friern Barnet Library when they broke in on September 5 and demanded the council allow them to reopen the disused building.
The authority has since racked up a bill of more than £7,000 paying security staff to monitor the former community hub round the clock at £600-a-day.
A second round of talks between council officers and the squatters took place this morning, less than 24 hours before the group is due in court over their occupation of the building.
Barnet Council closed the library in April to save money and raise cash through the sale of the property.
The squatters have reopened the facility for the last fortnight using books donated by the local community.
Pete Phoenix, who has been negotiating with Barnet Council, said the authority offered £10,000-a-year and a book stock of more than 10,000 volumes to open their own library at Friary House, in Friary Park.
Community supporters of the squatters say Friary House is unsuitable as it is not purpose-built and is not as accessible.
The squatters say it will cost between £20,000 and £30,000 to open the library full time and want the council to put forward more money and consider reopening Friern Barnet until it is sold.
Mr Phoenix, 41, said: “We need a middle ground where there is part funding from the council and part volunteering – we can’t let this building lie empty. We’re running the place at the moment on the cost of the electricity.”
Despite the apparent co-operation displayed by Barnet Council, the authority has begun legal proceedings to remove the squatters.
Both parties are due at Barnet County Court tomorrow (Tuesday) where the legal process of eviction will begin, though this could take several weeks.
Mr Phoenix added: “It is strange that they are continuing to meet with us and essentially giving us permission to be here but are pressing ahead with the legal action. We are asking them to cease the court hearings - we don’t need to spend money on that, we need to negotiate. We want to buy some time to let people put their case to the council.”
The Times Series is awaiting comment from Barnet Council