Category Archives: Council Spending

Shocking cost of Kilburn Library refurbishment

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.

Councillor Mohammed Butt

New leader, old ideas? Photo: Brent & Kilburn Times

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.

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Chief Exec earns more than Prime Minister

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.Gareth Daniel earns more than the Prime Minister

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.

Lorraine King writes in the Kilburn Times:

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Brent Magazine gets it wrong again

Images of the loss making Brent MagazineLike 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 Library – success or failure? Brent can’t decide…

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

(Harrow Observer)

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.

(The Guardian)

Now the line is:

The council says Willesden Green Library has struggled to fulfil potential and is poorly designed.

(Kilburn Times)

 

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 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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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?

 

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….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illogical, Wasteful and Arrogant. Welcome to 21st Century Brent

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.

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Council ‘wasted £70,000 in legal fees it could have spent on books’

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.

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Anger at town halls after they write off debts of £135 million

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.

“Cash-strapped” council spends £100m

Why we don’t deserve to lose our libraries…

Protestors force deferral of decision to sell Preston Library

UPDATE

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.

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Mon 18 July – Preston Library for Sale

7pm Monday 18 July 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.

What is wrong with Brent’s figures?

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.

PRESTON LIBRARY….

  1. Has the HIGHEST Issues per visit of any library
  2. Has the HIGHEST ratio of books issued to stock
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Council’s ‘million pound spending spree’ while libraries face closure

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.

Why the community needs this library

THE COMMUNITY ARGUMENT FOR PRESTON LIBRARY

INTRODUCTION

 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…

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Brent’s “fat cat” salaries

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.

Priorities eh?

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