Today we got our verdict on Round 1 of Brent residents v the Labour Council. Mr Justice Ousley today dismissed a judicial review brought by campaigners seeking to overturn Brent Council’s decision to close half of its public libraries.
The solicitor, John Halford of Bindmans LLP said:
“Today’s judgement means that half of Brent’s libraries remain under threat and has very troubling implications for library closure decisions nationally. That is why Ms Bailey, Ms Desoysa and Mr Lester will be pursing an appeal and the local campaign will renew its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent’s decision. It cannot be right to decimate the library service of an inner London borough whose children are desperate to read and study but whose parents cannot afford books nor the transport costs of regular access to distant libraries. Nor is Brent right to say the threatened libraries are unnecessary to meet local needs. The passion and commitment of the community campaign to keep them open shows that is nonsense.” (full press release here)
We are not just a bunch of NIMBYs trying to save a defunct service, this is the biggest campaign Brent has seen in half a century – 10,000 + signatures, 82% opposition to the closure plan, including almost every school in the borough. We use our libraries, we value them, and we need them. Brent Council can easily afford to keep them open, and their loss means a decimated, two-tier library service that will fail residents.
Margaret Bailey, on behalf of Brent Libraries SOS campaign said:
“We are obviously disappointed with the decision given by the judge today. We are determined to appeal. We believe that there are important points of principle at stake which an appeal court will decide differently. Our campaign will redouble its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent Council’s decision to close half of its libraries.
“Although this seems an unequal struggle between Brent Council, with its extensive resources, and the people of Brent, who have waged the largest campaign ever seen in the 45 year history of the borough, we will be redoubling our efforts to prevent six libraries being closed for ever. If the council proceeds with these closures they will deny the people of Brent, a significantly deprived borough, the opportunity to study and read in a quiet accessible library. We are very concerned about the impact on the vulnerable and disadvantaged, including children and young people, now and for generations to come.
“We strongly believe and continue to believe that Brent’s decision is wrong, and that the manner in which Brent arrived at that decision was unreasonable and unfair.
“Our campaign to save the libraries in Brent continues because we challenge the idea that Brent can provide a comprehensive library service by closing half the number of libraries in the borough.
“In the meantime, we demand that, in light of the serious concerns raised by local residents, Brent will take the time, before closing the doors of any library, to properly consider the options proposed by local groups to preserve local library services, and open a dialogue with those groups to find constructive solutions for our communities.
“Brent Council has already spent over £70,000 of residents’ money on this legal case and they should not waste any more money in pursuing a library closure policy that the vast majority of Brent residents oppose.
“We also call upon Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Culture, and Ed Vaizey the Minister responsible for libraries, to do their duty and decide on whether Brent can live up to its obligations to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service by closing half of the borough’s libraries. They should now intervene to investigate this matter. A great many letters and signatures on petitions have gone to Jeremy Hunt – hundreds if not thousands, and so far we have been very disappointed that he and his department have not been willing to meet with local groups.
“We also publicly ask that our constituency MPs, including Minister of State for Children and Families Sarah Teather, Glenda Jackson, and Barry Gardiner demand that they do so.
“Despite the disappointing result today, we must not fail to recognise the excellent legal work done by our tireless team of solicitors led by John Halford, and barristers led by Helen Mountfield QC, who did an outstanding job in an extraordinarily short time frame. And most of all, we must thank all of our supporters and volunteers, our friends and neighbours, who have worked day and night to organise and staff fundraising events, canvass for donations, hand out flyers, write proposals and open up their hearts and lives to offer witness statements; and in a demonstration of concrete support in one of the poorest boroughs in London have raised nearly £30,000 to ensure our case was heard. This campaign has galvanised our communities in a way that none of us could have expected, and Brent Council would do well to call on that energy to preserve and strengthen our local resources, rather than weaken them.”
Press contacts: see http://www.bindmans.com/index.php?id=1075