CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey praises fight that saved library

Labour says Shaun Bailey's words are 'hollow' after cuts

21 February, 2019

Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey with supporters in Primrose Hill

CONSERVATIVE mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey praised volunteers who saved a library from closure during a cam­paign stop in Primrose Hill on Saturday.

He called on people to “keep on fighting” after hearing what he describ­ed as an inspirational story of keeping the library service alive.

But his words were almost immediately described as “hollow” as opponents pointed to budget cuts forced on local authorities by the Tory government.

Mr Bailey, who is hoping to oust Sadiq Khan as the city’s mayor at next year’s London elections, said of the library campaign: “It is a great example of community work. The community saved the library from closing, but not only that it has become a vibrant com­munity space which in­volves people of all ages and which is sponsored and supported by the community as well.”

He added: These are the kinds of organisations that we need to find ways of supporting, with official support from City Hall and from local councils as well. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. People have been very warm, very welcoming, and explaining some of the challenges and also successes that they have had.”

The library’s survival is considered a success story, but requires constant fundraising and reliance on commitment from volunteers.

Labour councillor Richard Cotton has been one of those who have worked there for free.

Along with Belsize and Keats libraries, Primrose Hill Library – formerly known as Chalk Farm Library – was handed to volunteers in 2013 when Camden said it no longer had the resources to fund it.

Deals were brokered with the council’s then leisure chief Tulip Siddiq, who claimed she had saved the libraries when she went on her run to become MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Camden’s other libraries are still run by the council, although there have been occasional warnings about the future prospects of funding non-statutory services as annual budgets become squeezed.

In a video message filmed outside the library on Saturday, Mr Bailey added: “If you have a local library that needs this kind of support, you could learn a lesson or two from this really good local project.”

But Camden’s leisure chief Councillor Jonathan Simpson said: “We’ve had nearly 10 years of Tory austerity, which has halved Camden’s budget. Libraries are valued public services and we continue to have a strong network across the borough. Having a Tory candidate come to one of the three community-run libraries 10 years into austerity to say they would help seems a bit hollow.”

He added: “They should be joining us in telling central government about the impact that cuts have at community level.”

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