Barnet's UNISON members are calling for an extension on the library staff consultation period, as 46% could lose their jobs.

A meeting was held in Chipping Barnet library Stapylton Road this morning (Sep 12), where staff and UNISON members were told of the cuts. 

John Burgess, branch secretary of Barnet UNISON said: “A lot of people are very very unhappy about this. I think it is appalling that the council are spending millions on consultants and 46% of staff could lose their job by April nest year.

“They are increasing spend and decreasing staff. It is not a transformation, it is a destruction. I have heard of three accounts where people have been unwell at the library, and there have been little or no staff to help them, this includes a situation where one person was very ill."

Barnet UNISON say instead of cutting the Library budget and spending nearly £8 million on its implementation, they could spend it elsewhere.

They suggest taking £2.162m spread over four years from the Council’s reserves, or increasing council tax by the maximum of 4% (instead of the planned 2%) in 2017-2018.

Since the libraries consolations began on July 7, Barnet UNISON have received eight reports of incidents or accidents in libraries across the borough.

They include five verbal assaults and antisocial behaviour, one theft, one physical assault on a child and one accident to a member of staff caused by fittings and fixtures.

UNISON members fought against library cuts by going on strike in June, as the decision to approve the cuts was made in April.

Library workers went on the picket line to fight the council plans to cut £2.85million form the service.

Changes include creating unstaffed libraries, additional CCTV cameras, meaning children under 15-years-old are banned from visiting the libraries unattended.

However, Councillor Reuben Thompstone, Chairman of Children, Education, Libraries and Safeguarding Committee, said: “Following extensive consultation with our residents we have redesigned our library service to allow us to maintain the same number of libraries and give our residents increased access to their local library using technology extended opening hours.

“As seventy per cent of our library service costs goes on staffing, we have had to make the difficult decision of reducing staffed operating hours of our library buildings. I understand this is an extremely anxious time for staff and we are offering support in a number of different ways including interview skills coaching and helping staff to explore other job opportunities within the council as they arise.”

Cllr Arjun Mittra of the East Finchley, has been backing the library supporters since they started fighting the council cuts.

He said: “This is a deeply sad day for library lovers. These cuts are going to do a lot of damage to the libraries service. We are very lucky to have such a brilliant team of librarians and I am deeply sad and ashamed that the Council keeps treating them like this.”

Barnet’s UNISON branch will take part in the national libraries, museums and galleries demonstration, outside the British museum on Saturday November 5.