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Archive for August, 2012

By Cllr Maya de Souza

The recent outcry about plans to slash funding for Highgate Library, reflects the current administration’s lack of openness and transparency about its plans for our libraries.

In mid-2011, a decision was made to radically reform our library provision, taking three libraries out of direct council control and giving them to communities to fund.

Two other libraries, Highgate and Regent’s Park, were also subject to change: the former to lose over 60% of its funding, and the latter to be closed and for a homework club-type arrangement to be set up instead.

I immediately raised questions about the cuts, pointing out that it seemed that if no alternative funds were found for Highgate Library, it was at risk of closure. It was not possible to see how a library already running on a shoe-string could struggle on with such severe cuts – if it did, it could not have anything like the same level of service.

And there was no evidence at all that any of the possible schemes and sources of funding mentioned by officers and Cabinet Members would come to fruition at all.

When Alexis Rowell, our Green candidate, pointed out in by-election material – leading up to the narrow election of Labour councillor Sally Gimson, that Highgate Library was clearly still at risk, Labour denied this strongly. They said that the library was not at risk and that it would stay open.

However, this June – nine months later – the Council held a public meeting led by Cllr Leach where it was stated that almost 75% of funds would be lost and admitted that they had no thought-out plans for ensuring sufficient funding for the library come April 2013 – now only about nine months away.

Cllr Leach admitted that the current funding level involves running a library on a shoestring. Clearly without 75% of its funds the library is at risk!

Residents have now put forward a proposal for a community-led steering group to explore options and guide the council as to the library’s future, and they have asked for the funding cuts to be put on hold until after a solution has been found.

Highgate Greens and I are pushing for funding cuts to be reduced, and in any event put on hold pending a solution.

We will be seeking to ensure that we do not lose this invaluable community resource. We think the library needs to be made even better, NOT starved of funding.

The sums involved are manageable, considering that Camden has cut its budget faster than is necessary.

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by Natalie Bennett

Defending traffic wardens, speaking up for them, is not always going to be a popular cause, but I’m proud that’s what Camden Green Party has been doing lately, including through letters to the local papers. Yesterday I was pleased to be able to speak at a Unison rally for them at the Town Hall marking the fact that they are now in the middle of a second strike for decent wages.

They’re currently receiving £8.09/hour for a 42.5-hour week – not even the London Living Wage – and certainly not enough for a tough, physical, stressful job in the midst of high-cost central London.

Inevitably, their role has been outsourced (by a Labour council some years ago), and they are employed by NSL (formerly part of NCP), a corporate giant that Unison reports is taking a fee of about £6 for each hour of work from the attendants (remember they’re getting just £8 for the same hour – although their compatriots in Waltham Forest are already getting £10/hour – what the Camden workers are demanding).

The long-term solution is clearly to bring these roles back “in-house” at the council – parking attendants are enforcing our democratically agreed rules for the good of all of us and should be subject to proper democratic oversight – but the contract has three years to run, and until that point, Camden council should be doing everything possible to get their contractor to pay a decent wage.

Here’s a video of what I said yesterday.

More videos from the rally can be found here.

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By Natalie Bennett

Yesterday, as every year on August 6, Tavistock Square became a solemn place, a sad place, but also a place of resolution, as London CND held its annual Hiroshima Day commemoration.

The resolve was to continue to fight against these hideous weapons, particularly against Britain’s nuclear weapons.

The high turnout, certainly the biggest I have seen, perhaps in part reflected the fact that the is a feeling that austerity, with all of its social horrors, might at least hold out new hopes of UK disarmament.

When even very traditionalist defence experts are calling for Britain to abandon nuclear weapons, if only on cost grounds, the political ground is certainly shifting.

There were two participants who held more memories than most people present.

The veteran peace campaigner Hetty Bower, aged 106, pictured in the crowd right, said: “We have got to grow up and stop killing each other.”

MP Tony Benn said nuclear weapons are no use, we can’t afford them, and they not really independent of US. “We must get rid of them.”

 

Green MEP Jean Lambert,  pictured right, highlighted the almost casual acceptance of India’s nuclear weapons (with real politic proponents saying “we need a bulwark against China), contrasting it with the view of Pakistan.

She said that existing weapons states need to break the stalemate on non-proliferation. It was time we put down bombs and worked for peace, she said.

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