Barnet Council seem to be stalling ahead of the intended end of the Friern Barnet Library occupation on 31st January - perhaps it's not deliberate, but inefficiency. But the question remains, will they or won't they grant a licence to the community campaigners who have stepped forward for the role?
The press release below from the Friern Barnet Library occupiers points out some of the issues at stake. If you want to support the library and are free on Thursday evening, we are invited to visit for the evening and stay the night if we can - remember, possession is 9/10 of the law! I've got my sleeping bag ready!
Plans are afoot for a sleepover and celebration on Thursday 31st January in Friern Barnet Community Library, to celebrate hopefully the saving of the Library into the future. People are asked to bring some food to share for a celebration of how far we have come and the hope of a deal.
This may be concluded soon with a handover of the keys to the Directors of Friern Barnet Community Library Ltd.
The nine Trustees (as they prefer to be called) of the newly-created Community Library, which is stocked with 10,000 volumes donated by local residents, are in negotiations with Barnet Council for a lease to run the library with the community.
The library, staffed by Occupiers/squatters and the local community, is currently open six days a week, from 11am-7pm, with many evening events.
We hope for agreement with the council and that the lease should be concluded soon and a handover to the local residents enacted.
"We are in negotiation with the council", said Jeffrey Newman, one of the nine library Trustees. "We hope to agree a two-year licence, followed by a longer lease and a sufficient grant for initial capital expenditure to put into a professional librarian to help our volunteer pool to run the library. We are all working flat out for a signed legal agreement with the Council.
"The sleepover celebration is being held to celebrate a win-win-win-win conclusion for the local residents, for the Council, for the occupiers, for CommUnityBarnet and for the National Libraries campaigns."
There are a number of variables in our position dependant on what the council is actually offering - more information confirmed and what the whole group decides at our Wednesday night meeting..
Many of the Occupiers, local campaigners and groups feel strongly that we require clear assurances from the council that the library will be safe in the future. (No possibility of Capita (the new Company hoping to run Barnet under the 'One Barnet' council privatisation scheme, currently under Judicial Review) selling it on to a Developer, or it still being lost to a commercial bid under the Community Right to bid).
The council has still not confirmed the exact details of the lease, we are awaiting more information before a key handover can happen.
Our weds 6.30pm main meeting will be deciding our position reference the council deal being offered, the appeal and the situation on Friday.
With all the details of the arrangement to be worked out, many in the group feel we should not hand over the building on Friday until assurances on the level of funding the council are offering as well as many other matters are agreed. Responsibilities for the large repair costs, insurance and utilities, etc.
To push for the best deal possible for this library, but also for the National Libraries campaign, who have grave concerns over the push to low funded voluntary libraries taking over paid librarians situations. The decisions we make will reverberate nationally.
We have asked the council for a 2-3 week extension to sort the details.
Apparently the Leader Richard Cornelius has finally after numerous requests agreed to meet negotiators on Thursday.
We await tonight or tomorrow morning the Court of Appeals decision on the appeal and a stay of execution of the bailiffs, which would:
a) take the pressure off of the friday situation (possession order can be enacted on Friday 1st February);
b) could give some more weeks or months for the negotiations to get the best deal possible for all future generations of library users;
c) uphold our rights to protest (ECHR articles 10 and 11 ) in publicly owned buildings that have been closed due to the cuts. This could be a majorly significant rulling.
Journalists are invited to get in touch and possibly visit Thursdayevening/ Friday morning for the very interesting latest stage of the story of the library that would not close.
Yours, the library caretakers
The Friern Barnet Community Library (Ltd) has been legally incorporated in the last fortnight. Members of the Occupy London movement squatted and reopened the library, as a campaign to save the Library and also as a protest against the new criminalisation of the homeless and squatters by the LASPO Act 2012. (Enacted Sept 1st, Occupied Sept 3rd).
NB squatting in non residential buildings is still legal. However an attempt has just been launched by some on the extreme right of the Conservative Party to criminalise and make non residential building squatting also illegal - we oppose this.
This if it was successful would affect all our rights to protest by occupying/squatting space, and would make successful community squat occupations such as the library campaign ILLEGAL, thus further removing our rights to shelter and protest.
The Squatters Action For Secure Homes have just launched a campaign and rapidly growing petition to repeal the unfair, undemocratic, unlawful and arbitrary LASPO Act 2012.
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44597 - please sign and support.
Occupiers have been running Friern Barnet Community Library with the community since September. The library had been closed despite strong local opposition in April last year. Negotiating the lease and accompanying grant is complicated. A "tenancy at will" is under discussion as an interim arrangement while the lease is concluded.