Category Archives: Council Spending
The financial mismanagement of Brent Council continues unabated. The cost of refurbishing Kilburn library has gone up from £117,000 to £650,000 – an extra £half million has been found to upgrade one of the least-used libraries in Brent.
The original figure formed part of the Library Transformation Plan that new leader Mo Butt is determined to see through. That figure was therefore approved by the executive when they voted for closure last year.
In just 18 months, the figure has increased five-fold. No justification for the increase has been put forward by Brent Council.
Gareth Daniel, the man lambasted by Lord Laming for his role in the failure to protect murdered 8 year old Victoria Climbie (see 5.5, The Victoria Climbie Inquiry) earns £60,000 more than David Cameron.
The Brent Chief Executive takes home £203,342 each year, plus £28,793 in pensions from the council that has one of highest pension deficits in the country.
Meanwhile, 24 council workers take home more than £100,000 per year according to the Taxpayers Alliance.
Like last year, not-quite-World Book Day events won’t be coming to Preston. And we’re not even sure it’s coming to Wembley full stop.
The loss-making Brent Magazine this month proclaims Ealing Road Library to be the top venue for the events on March 1. Yet on the previous page we have just been told it will be closed for improvements between 27 Feb and 26 March.
So will Ealing Road be open or closed on March 1? Should you traipse across town to another closed library? Brent has a habit of closing libraries on a whim.
What is especially galling is:
1. Brent Magazine runs at a loss of £1000+ every month. Further, the advertising that supposedly pays for it, comes from Brent COuncil departments. And many people don’t even receive it.
2. Ealing Road may be being improved, but its not being extended, nor parking added. So it is just as overcrowded and inaccessible as ever.
3. Preston will never get library events. We pay for them though. We have to have our own events
Willesden Green may well be the 7th library to close this year. Brent has long been planning to close it for 2 years to rebuild it. It’s a curious story, made curiouser by Labour councillors falling asleep and losing during an important vote on the issue.
Last year, when trying to justify closing 6 libraries, Willesden Green was cited as the successful library, against which ours was a failure:
Councillor James Powney (Kensal Green, Labour), said: “Willesden Green is our most successful library
Ann John reiterated this just a few months ago:
The truth about the closure of the six libraries is that they were the least popular and least visited libraries in the borough…In contrast, the most popular – Willesden Green library centre – had 508,599 visitors.
Now the line is:
The council says Willesden Green Library has struggled to fulfil potential and is poorly designed.
So which is it? For Brent, it’s both. For everyone else, it is the latter. WG is a failure. It not only costs more than all 6 libraries put together, it also fails to attract more users than all 6 put together.
And this is after those user figures have been artificially inflated by situating non-library services and staff offices inside the library, and then counting everyone together.
In other words, Willesden Green is much more expensive and far less efficient than Preston, yet it was our library that was closed. Permanently.
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.
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:
Apparently 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.
£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.
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?
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.
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….
Willesden Green Library, whose virtues were extolled ad nauseum by Ann John is to be knocked down next year. And that is one of the saved libraries. So that’s leaves 5 libraries, none of which have enough capacity for the extra users they are supposed to now be serving.
Why? Because it was (whisper it) PERFORMING POORLY. Unlike Preston. And it was supposed to be the place Kensal and Cricklewood users were to go to.
With costs of around £560,000 a year, closing it early would have saved all 6 libraries and then some. Something we proposed in March. Instead the council has decided to keep spending the same amount of money – without the library.
Another example of Brent Council wasting our money – read the article in here.
Campaigners have almost reached the target £30,000 to fund the legal action against the closure of 50% of Brent’s libraries. It would cost just £1m to keep them all open, and a reduction of hours across the board would achieve the same savings (according to the council’s own figures) – yet the Council ignored massive opposition from residents and ploughed ahead with the cuts.
First they claimed it was financially necessary, but under fire for spending a whopping £3m on a new mega-library as part of a £100 million Civic Centre project (at a time of deep recession), they switched to arguing that the cuts would improve library services! Nobody seems sure how losing local libraries in communities that clearly value them is an improvement. These are libraries that are far from under-performing: Preston Library is one of the most efficient and highest usage library in the borough.
In today’s Evening Standard, Brent admits it has written off £millions in uncollected debt:
Campaigners today condemned town halls for not doing enough to hunt down “every penny” that bailiffs and debt collectors failed to trace.
An Evening Standard investigation found that in the 2009/10 financial year Tory-run Westminster council wrote off the most at £20.6 million.
This included £19.4 million in unpaid parking fines, which the council said was accumulated over several years and included foreign cars and embassies that refused to pay tickets and fees under diplomatic immunity.
Second highest was Labour-run Brent, which had £17.3 million uncollected, including £9.7 million of council tax. Hackney overpaid £2.58 million in housing benefit which is now lost.
Brent Council tonight dramatically withdrew proposals to dispose of half of its library properties in an eleventh-hour U-turn the night before it was due to defend its actions in the High Court.
Monday evening will see the Council Executive, the lovely bunch who unanimously voted to close our library, decide whether to sell the Preston Library building (and Tokyngton) or not.
7pm Brent Town Hall – committee rooms 1,2 and 3.
Please come and show your opposition to the short-sighted sale of our last public building. Once it is gone, it is gone.
The council told us Preston Library is
“low usage and poorly located”
They say: the cost-per-visit is very high (it is expensive to run and not enough people visit it). It is on this argument they are closing it. BUT when we looked at the same figures, and did a few more calculations, we found a very different picture.
- Has the HIGHEST Issues per visit of any library
- Has the HIGHEST ratio of books issued to stock
Read the rest of this entry
In today’s Wembley Observer, Tara Brady reports….
MORE than £1.2 million was spent on consultants by Brent Council during the same month it recommended to close six of the borough’s libraries.
Campaigners have expressed outrage at the amount the local authority paid out to obtain advice from private consultancy firms in March.
In the same month, a council report was published recommending the closures of six libraries to save the authority money despite mass opposition from the public.
THE COMMUNITY ARGUMENT FOR PRESTON LIBRARY
Brent Council has said that their reason for closing half the borough’s libraries is not only to make savings but also because senior officers have recommended that moving resources away from community libraries is a “better offer” to Brent Residents.
A range of options for making financial savings, eg cutting hours, reducing central administration costs, has already been offered by our campaign. This paper addresses the second objective – removing the ‘local’ from the public library service. The “better offer” to Brent Residents is a concentration of services in 2 library hubs, offering wider services and open longer hours, rather than local, community-based public libraries.
People living around Preston Road want to keep their local public library.. and here’s why…
The Taxpayer’s Alliance 2011 Town Hall Rich List is out.
A whopping 29 council officers are paid more that £100,000 a year, making Brent a top 10 “fat cat” local authority.
Cornwall Council comes top of the Rich List, with 32 officers earning £100k+. Just 3 more than our dear cash-strapped Brent. EXCEPT Cornwall is NOT closing its libraries to meet budget cuts.
Chief executive, Gareth Daniel, takes home a massive £250,000 (including pension) at a time when we are being to accept cuts to services.
As Wembley & Brent Times reported:
Brent boss, Gareth Daniel who has cut a controversial figure during his tenure at the council, earns £60,000 more than the Prime Minister and a staggering seven times as much as a newly qualified teacher working in inner London, who takes home £27,000 a year.