Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday joke: Robert Rams: an imaginary library, imaginary friends, and a now you see it, now you don't, community hub proposal

Cllr Robert Rams, pic courtesy of the Barnet Bugle

Dangerous thing, twitter, if you are a politician.

Dangerous thing, too, if you are not a politician, but your name is Robert Rams, and you are a councillor and Cabinet member here in Broken Barnet.

Robert is also, allegedly, the tea boy for the Tory group at the GLA, responsible for, well, we can't be sure, but whatever his duties are, they leave plenty of time for him to broadcast a seemingly unstoppable series of tweets throughout the day to an audience of breathless followers.

Earlier this year, you may recall, much hilarity ensued in the Barnet blogosphere when, in the middle of the shameless preparations to shut Friern Barnet Library, Rams was caught boasting on twitter to the Standard newspaper that here in this borough the future for libraries was, frankly, just wonderful, as we have done marvellous things, yes: built new libraries with extended opening hours. Er, what?

The Barnet Eye blog followed up with a post with the memorable headline -

'Robert Rams: 'I have built an imaginary library' ...

See Mrs Angry's post for a reminder of this episode, and a report of his frantic attempt to deny his involvement in the infamous parking charge scheme:

Yesterday, rather surprisingly, twitter saw an unexpected blossoming of - possibly short lived - bromance between the Barnet Eye and Councillor Rams. Don't tell Matthew Offord.

Rather indiscreetly, Robert tweeted an announcement of this new relationship to the wider world:

Failed Lib Dem declares his love for me He also likes to call me Ramsbottom

(*Note to Robert Rams: being a failed Libdem is something to be grateful for, one might argue, as it saved him from the ignominy of having to be in coalition with your own party, no? And he may be a failed candidate, but he is of course a very successful blogger ...)

Even more indiscreetly, Cllr Rams has tweeted the following comments, in reply to an enquiry from Mrs Angry about a rumour alleging that Friern Barnet Library was to be sold to a major supermarket chain. Cllr Rams denied this, and consequently made these remarks: please read sequentially from the bottom up.

"Cllr Robert Rams@CllrRobertRams

2/2 @BrokenBarnet @_mrmustard and now a community group have come forward that look like they could offer this ..Sadly earlier bids did not

10 Jun Cllr Robert Rams@CllrRobertRams

1/2 @BrokenBarnet @_mrmustard we were clear from the start of this process we would need a capital receipt from the building

10 Jun Cllr Robert Rams@CllrRobertRams

@BrokenBarnet @_mrmustard details are in an early stage, let's let them take their course and when we can announce something we will!

10 Jun Cllr Robert Rams@CllrRobertRams

@_MrMustard @brokenbarnet I always wanted this to happen, it was a shame it did not happen earlier

10 Jun Cllr Robert Rams@CllrRobertRams

@_MrMustard @brokenbarnet community

10 Jun Cllr Robert Rams@CllrRobertRams

@_MrMustard @BrokenBarnet re fb lib we are currently in early discussions with a com group from fb who want to buy it so not marketing"

Mrs Angry has asked Cllr Rams many times since this exchange was made to clarify the position as regards the future of the library, and specifically what he means by the so alleged community bid. Does he mean the old proposal, mooted even before the closure, of a community hub, or is this an entirely new bid. If so, from whom?

Cllr Rams has refused to reply, and therefore one is reasonably entitled to be deeply sceptical about his comments.

Mrs Angry has also made enquiries amongst a number of library campaign activists, and has found no one with any knowledge of any new proposals.

She has also been given to understand that at one point there was a plan to build flats on the site, with a promise of a community room included in the development. Additionally, since the closure of the library, some campaigners believe that there is still a chance to buy the library building for community purposes.

Oh dear.

Let's deconstruct this world of fantasy, shall we?

Many residents will remember, with a sense of bitterness, the way in which they felt misled and betrayed by the tortuous process, over the last year, which seemed to offer a real hope, in the awful eventuality of closure, of taking control of the library and running it as a community resource.

Some residents even stopped openly campaigning against the council closure plans because they felt it would be detrimental to their chances.

When it became clear that in fact they had been duped, and that the move to closure had been decided purely on the basis of the development potential of the building - and grounds - residents and campaigners were beside themselves with fury, and quite rightly so.

Barnet has never had any real commitment to 'Big Society' ventures, run by volunteers with real support from the local authority. That the Hampstead Garden Suburb library proposal succeeded was due entirely to two reasons: the need to placate the influential residents of a Tory ward, and the absence of any development potential in the rented building. The council is happy to continue funding this vanity project, you may note, despite the continually stated need to observe the rule of austerity when it comes to a library in a markedly less advantaged and Labour dominated area.

If a developer is interested in the Friern Barnet site, they will hardly want to preserve the library building. This beautiful library is, sadly, not listed, and presents no problem to a development, if demolished. And even if there were to be some sort of preservation order or local listing, the squeezing of another block of flats into the neighbouring patch of green space would seem to Mrs Angry to be entirely inappropriate.

As to Rams's comments implying a real chance for a community group to buy the building: if this is the case, where are the details of the bid?

If this is a community bid, rather than a commercial one, surely there must be a wider consultation with the community as to what they want, even in the anti-democratic world of Broken Barnet?

Where and when were the discussions? How recent? Are they active, now? What is the timetable of actions to be taken, and with whom?

Or is this just a load of balls, Cllr Rams, filling in time, until some real commercial proposal comes to the table?

Is the library really going to be sold for the nominal, unrealistic official valuation of £430,000? When Barnet would stand to make millions from a commercial sale?

Here is some advice from Mrs Angry to the people of Friern Barnet, especially the library campaigners.

You've been taken for a ride once already by Barnet Council.

Don't let them shaft you again.


Rog T said...

Rams uses the term "failed Lib Dem" as a term of derision. I wonder if he holds Winston Churchill in such derision?

Mrs Angry said...

Oh dear, Rog, I don't think Robert Rams grasp of history would reach any further back than the Thatcher years. Failed Libdem is a compliment, although in one particular case I can think of, in the last general election, it is less of a compliment, and more of an inevitability.

Mr Mustard said...

Failed candidate. Roger must surely be holding a BBQ then to raise funds for the party?

Rog T said...

I suspect that Rams barb gives us a deep insight into his view of politics and politicians. Whilst any disappointment I had at not getting elected was purely because it meant I couldn't represent the 2,000 odd people who thought I'd make a decent candidate, for Rams I suspect that it is all about his ego. If he thinks he's such a successful candidate, he should stand in Burnt Oak and see how many votes he gets.

I doubt many Barnet Councillors get any sort of personal vote at all and I suspect that as Rams is so keen on shutting libraries, his one will be negative.

I must say that I find his sudden interest in issues in the Hendon Constituency a bit odd. You don't suppose he is hoping Matthew Offord falls under a bus (or gets deselected) do you?

I rather hope Rams does stand in Hendon as it will give me a good reason to get off my fat arse and campaign.

Mrs Angry said...

I don't really think poor Matthew Offord needs to fall under a bus: he may well be pushed by some of his colleagues.

How amusing it would be if Rams stood in a real grown up election. Hours of entertainment for the Barnet blogosphere. Somehow I think the voters of Hendon would not be quite so easily pleased, however ...