DCMS finally meets with campaigners…after almost a year
A full 10 months after meeting Brent Council, the DCMS finally met with Brent SOS Libraries campaign yesterday to hear our evidence against the mass closure programme of 2011.
This meeting was vital as we have not had the chance to challenge Brent’s use of misleading and inaccurate information throughout the process. With library use plummetting, we are asking for an inquiry under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.
Brent SOS Libraries are seriously concerned that Brent Council is not fulfilling its statutory duty under section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. There has been a dramatic fall in library visits and issues since the closure of half of the borough’s libraries.
The refusal to engage with community groups, even when those groups offer to run library services at no cost to the council, should also be a cause for concern.
Brent Council has provided misleading and inaccurate information to the Secretary of State, such that the Secretary of State cannot take material provided by Brent Council at face value. In the circumstances an inquiry should be ordered.
Brent SOS Libraries’ written submission to DCMS…
Following numerous complaints that Brent Council had used misleading and inaccurate information to defend its closure of half of the borough’s libraries, Brent SOS Libraries were invited to present their concerns to the DCMS. The DCMS heard that:
- There has been a net loss of 195 library hours a week across the borough.
- There are no discernible improvements to the outreach and home delivery services.
- The library book fund remains at the same level for a third year, representing a cut in real terms.
- There has been a sustained decline of 20% in both visits and books issued since the closures.
- Brent Council’s refusal to consider the use of the closed libraries at Neasden, Cricklewood and Kensal Rise during the imminent two-year closure of Willesden Green Library Centre appears to be irrational.
- Brent Council continues to refuse to engage with community groups, even when those groups are offering to run library services to replace those that have been axed – at no cost to the council.
For all of these reasons, Brent SOS Libraries said that Brent Council is failing in its legal duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, and called upon the Secretary of State to order an inquiry.
Laura Collignon, spokesperson for Brent SOS Libraries, said:
“We presented compelling evidence of the effects of the loss of essential services and damage to our communities caused by the closure of half of Brent’s libraries. We hope that the Secretary of State will take this into account when deciding whether or not Brent council is fulfilling its statutory duties, particularly to vulnerable groups in the borough.”