Monthly Archives: December 2011

Preston Library Emptied

Police side with council as it empties the library.Brent takes advantage of the holiday shutdown to pre-empt any intervention from the Supreme Court, where an appeal was lodged two weeks ago.

Campaigners expect the council to rush through the sale of the library in the coming months, depriving the area of its last local service.

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A Preston Christmas Carol (or two)

For those who missed last week’s carols – you can now sing the special ones around your tree at home. We have shown incredible spirit this year and we intend to continue into the new year.

Community singing carols at the Wall of Shame

Carols written specially for Preston Library Campaign

You can also download and print them here: A Preston Christmas Carol

Oh Library! Oh how I love you so!

Carol to the tune of Oh Tennenbaum - Oh Library!
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Brent Council blew £15,000 on awards ceremony which honoured library closure team

Brent Council spent £15,000 on an awards ceremony in which the team behind the closure of six libraries was honoured, the Times can reveal.

The council gave out 139 awards to staff at the lavish end-of-year bash at Brent Town Hall earlier this month.

The night cost taxpayers around £50 for every person who attended, the council said. The Libraries Transformation Team, which was behind the project which closed half of the borough’s libraries, was named Team of the Year.

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Is this Brent’s improved library service?

Infographic showing Brent's new 19th century library service

Since October 13 2011, Brent has had 6 libraries. We were all promised a better service.

Implemented for 8 weeks, planned for over a year, this is what the new, improved, ’21st century’ Brent library service looks like:

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The battle to save Preston Library

Thanks to Rosie Hayes at YourNewsUKtv for documenting our fight…

Can’t afford libraries ?!?

Brent wastes our moneyApparently not. It costs about £400,000 to keep 6 local libraries open. But Brent has convinced the establishment it can’t afford this. Probably because it is busy wasting £hundreds of millions of taxpayer money (below).

Justice Pill said today:

Given the scale of the spending reductions the council was required to make … a decision that the library service should bear a share of the reduction was not, in my judgment, unlawful.

Perhaps he should have a chat with Gareth Daniel, Chief Executive of Brent Council:

 the reality is that these inevitably controversial initiatives represent just a very small part of our total £42 million savings requirement for the 2011/12 financial year.

Such a small saving has not stopped Brent from spending enormous amounts of (paid) time and money defending the policy.

Brent can’t afford our libraries, but it can afford:

£550,000 for Willesden Green library – about to be bulldozed due to it being a failure. It costs more than 6 libraries put together.

£100 million mortgage on the Civic Centre – this includes that vital £4 million “tree-lined boulevard” – this project hasn’t seen a penny cut.

£3 million on a single mega-library no one asked for.

£17.3 million after failing to collect unpaid debt.

£2.5 million on the salaries of just 19 council officers – putting Brent in the Top 10 Town Hall Rich List 2011.

£205,000 salary for Chief Executive Gareth Daniel – more than the Prime Minister.

£1-2 million per month on consultants.

£800,000 Ward working (half spent on admin alone, and the rest on flowerbeds and graffiti workshops)

£500,000 on Christmas decorations for Willesden Green High Street.

£180,000 a year on the Brent Mayor.

£150,000 a year on the loss making Brent Magazine – paid for by council departments.

That totals around £140 million (give or take) that could be BETTER SPENT on libraries, nurseries and centres for the disabled. It dwarfs the £42million Brent says it needs to save. Priorities eh?

 

Legal Comment

John Halford of Bindmans LLP, representing Brent SOS Campaign said:
“Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent, and all other local authorities, to properly grapple with the impact withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities.

The Court of Appeal appears to accept that there is a risk of indirect discrimination against significant numbers of people in Brent resulting from its plans to impose devastating cuts on local library services, but it has excused the Council from properly taking that risk into account before it deciding to make those cuts.

Our position is that this is simply wrong in principle. If the Supreme Court is willing to hear this case, we anticipate the outcome being very different.”

Is it all over? Nope.

Today, our appeal was rejected. Brent Council ignored 83% of residents in its sham consultation and managed to convince the judges that it cannot afford Preston Library (around £200,000),  as it spends half a million on christmas decorations in Willesden Green, £100 million on the mortgage for the Civic Centre and £3 million on a new mega-library no one has asked for.

Brent Council lied about our library being “poorly located and low usage” – it is neither, it was the one of the best performing libraries in the borough.  But failing to collect and analyse the data properly, riding roughshod over the views and needs of the public and wasting public money  is not actually prohibited by any particular law. So there you go.

Given this, we are not giving up. We DO have a strong case, and we will go to the Supreme Court if we can.

What happens now? As we decide on the next steps, there are still things you can do before the library is bulldozed permanently:

1. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is obliged to investigate any failures to provide an efficient and comprehensive service. He said he has been waiting for the verdict. He has it now and it is time to act. Write to him here.

We have lost 218 hours of library service across Brent. In return the Council has “improved its service” by a mere 23 hours. It takes 5 weeks to get a delivery of books if you cannot get to one of their remaining, inaccessible libraries.

2. A cross-party Select Committee is also investigating the nationwide closures. We will be submitting evidence next month.

3. Not one Labour councillor publicly opposed against the closures. Not one voted against.  It is up to every voter in Brent to complain to their councillor, MP and London Assembly member, Navin Shah. It is unacceptable and undemocratic to ignore such huge opposition.  Call, email and write to them here.

Brent SOS response to today’s verdict

Our legal team presented compelling evidence of damage to communities from Brent Council’s library closures, so we are disappointed that the appeal judges have not found in our favour.

Closing half of our libraries has had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable members of our community, among them children and families, the elderly, the disabled and those unemployed or on low incomes.

Brent has always had the means to keep these libraries open, it just lacks the will. The overwhelming strength of public feeling over the last year shows that communities need, want and will support local libraries.

Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has so far held back pending the outcome of this test case. The thousands of letters and petitions he has received demonstrate that Brent is neglecting its duties under the Libraries and Museums Act, and he must now call hold a public inquiry into the actions of this council.

Brent SOS Libraries campaign will also present evidence to the select committee that clearly demonstrates Brent’s failures.

 

The death of our high street? Tell Mary Portas

Mary Portas plans to save the high street

Retail expert, Mary Portas  (known for her TV series Mary Queen of Shops) is warning that after years of neglect and mismanagement they will disappear forever unless urgent action is taken.

Preston Road, which has lost its bustling library and will soon be hit by parking charges nobody has asked for,  will go into decline.

Cllr. James Powney, responsible for (closing) libraries is also the man who decided that we should pay to park, for no other reason than:

treating Preston Road in the same way as other places is fair.

There isn’t a parking or congestion problem on Preston Road that needs addressing, simply that other areas have it, so must we. Other areas also have libraries, so shouldn’t we James??

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Appeal verdict expected Monday – 2pm @High Court, Strand

Save Preston LibraryLord Justices Pill, Richards and Davis are to give their judgment into the closure by Brent Council of six of its 12 libraries at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London.

The judgment will be handed down at 2 pm in Court 72.

Brent SOS Libraries appealed against a High Court judge’s decision that Brent’s closures were lawful at a two-day hearing on 10-11 November.

Dinah Rose QC argued on behalf of library users and Brent SOS Libraries Campaign that in deciding to close six libraries, the library had failed to prevent discrimination against groups such as Asians, young children and local school children, by neglecting to assess the impact on such groups.

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“We’ll make our own holidays thank you” says Preston Library Campaign as Brent cancels Christmas

Preston Library Campaign will bring seasonal cheer and goodwill to all this weekend to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah with carol singing for the community this evening and a Christmas Party at the Windermere Pub on Saturday night.

Brent Council has this year REFUSED to provide a Christmas tree or Hanukah lights, despite spending £HALF A MILLION of taxpayers’ money on Christmas promotions on Willesden High Street and activities at Willesden Library. Tonight our merry band of singers took celebrations into their own hands, walking from the Green up to Preston Road station to entertain commuters, shoppers and local shopkeepers.
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Christmas Carols TONIGHT – 5pm

On the green outside Preston Pub. Join us for old and specially written carols.

From today’s Society Guardian:

• Library campaigners in north-west London, who are planning to sing carols tonight. They’ll be gathering at the green on Preston Road, Wembley, at 5pm before walking to Preston Road. They are highlighting Brent council’s decision to close six of its 12 libraries, a decision the Brent SOS Libraries group is challenging in the high court, and they’ve even written their own words to the carol We Three Kings, which begins:

We need our libraries – local they are,
Now we’ll have to travel afar
Traffic, parking
Drive us barking.
Paying to park the car.

Now we are Preston Library Minus…

A letter from a local person to Kingsbury Library Plus:

Dear Ms —- ,

Thank you for your e-letter in response to the comments I made about Preston Library. I have just returned from holiday to find the library completely boarded up following the High Court’s decision.

I have books in my possession and I cannot get to the Town Hall or Kingsbury Libraries so easily. The Town Hall library is a 48 minute return walk. This figure does not include time in the library. I could use a bus which will cost me £2.60 return on an Oyster Card. I also have a back problem which limits the amount I can carry. The same journey time, carriage problems and transport costs apply to Kingsbury Plus Library.

Now that we are Preston Library Minus, can you please advise me about returning my books and how your closures have improved the library service for me.
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Where did the Ward Working money go?

Patricia Harrison fails to save Preston Library

Cllr. Patricia Harrison - Labour, Preston

In an era of cuts to libraries, disabled services and nurseries (to name a few), the council chose not to cut a whopping £800,000 Ward Working Fund, apparently designed to improve local areas.

Just half of this could save all 6 local libraries, which more than 83% of the borough want kept open. Half of this Fund is actually spent on just admin, leaving around £20,000 per ward to be spent on essentials like flowerbeds and noticeboards.

So who spends this sizeable chunk of taxpayers money? Your councillors. Without consultation.

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Willesden Green gets ANOTHER £500,000 as our libraries close

With Willesden Green library centre costing MORE than all 6 closed libraries put together, we all know where Ann John’s priorities lie. On top of the £550,000+ it spends on Willesden Green each year (which they will continue to spend even when it closes for redevelopment next spring), it turns out that Willesden Green alone will benefit from a £500,000 award from Boris Johnson’s Outer London Fund. As we lose libraries, nurseries and essential day centres for the disabled, Brent will spend this on an art installation in Willesden Green before christmas.

After the recking ball that is this Labour council’s policies – it won’t be long before Preston is in need of ‘regeneration’ too….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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