Category Archives: In the News
New hope for Preston Library campaigners following meeting with Brent Council leader – Kilburn Times
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Jay asks whether Mr Hunt feels comfortable with the series of texts between himself and James Murdoch. Mr Hunt says his interpretation was that in his quasi-judicial role a “courteous reply to a text message was fine”.
So Murdoch’s acolytes get immediate replies to messages out of courtesy, while tens of thousands of library campaigners are ignored. Hmm.
His department ignored us for a year, then rushed a meeting in April 2012. Meanwhile they have been in close contact with Brent for 10 months.
Despite all our evidence, we are still being ignored. Read on (it’s worth it):
Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which books combust – died this week aged 91.
We shall miss him.
Hat tip: the fair Geraldine.
Ina stunning act of bad faith, Mohammed Butt’s council snuck into Kensal Rise library in the dead of night and stripped it bare. It was the last of the six to get the “Brent Treatment”, and the building will now be handed back to All Souls College, Oxford, probably to be sold.
Having met KR campaigners last week, we understand Cllr. Butt went down there again today to answer angry questions.
Having begun his reign with the news that Kilburn Library’s refurbishment has gone from £117,000 to over £650,000, it seems increasingly apparent that the change at the top has been cosmetic. With Ann John gone, perhaps Brent Labour hopes you will vote for them, even if nothing has really changed.
Very interesting article in tonight’s Kilburn Times.
Tonight the new leader Cllr. Muhammed Butt will be sworn in. On the same day, workers arrived to clear Kensal Rise library of books.
Thankfully a protest prevented it from happening. Coincidence?
Well, the embattled library -snatcher Cllr Powney (who almost lost his post last week) claims the new leader “has been part of the executive that has backed the library closures all the way”.
Butt himself claims he knew nothing about it.
Barham Library campaigner, Cllr. Paul Lorber believes this was actually a move to finally close down Kensal (the only one to have held onto its books) by the outgoing head, Cllr. Ann ‘Prince’ John.
We have requested a meeting with Cllr. Butt to discuss our library. But he has already said the way libraries were closed down “was not an issue” in the leadership change. Hmm.
With the kind of breathtaking chutzpah that is almost expected of our politicians, Boris has decided that he does indeed support our libraries. A year too late, and after they have closed. I guess there is an election coming.
From Max Walters in this week’s Kilburn Times:
Boris Johnson offers his support to Brent library campaigners
Boris Johnson has offered his support to Brent’s library campaigners – describing the decision to axe half of the borough’s reading rooms as “a real shame”.
The mayoral candidate spoke out about the controversial closures as he visited residents and traders in Preston Road, Wembley, last week.
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
Dan Jarvis is the shadow arts minister, he is Labour leader Ed Miliband’s libraries’ man.
This week, he told the Guardian how important libraries are, and how he plans to save them.
The benefit of libraries to communities is harder to measure, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes, in libraries large and small, from Barnsley to Bermondsey.
Does this government see it? Libraries minister Ed Vaizey‘s stock line has been: “I don’t run library services. Local authorities do.” He has a point: libraries are run by democratically elected local governments, and they take the lead. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. It may not be Vaizey’s job to micro-manage every library in the country – but it is his job to be their champion. And that is what he is failing to do.
Blaming the government for allowing them to close, he is silent on the fact that in Brent, it is his own party that has been fighting for the right to close libraries.
And as Boyd Tonkin pointed out yesterday:
the myopic idiocy of these false economies cuts straight across party lines
As we wait for Jeremy Hunt to get up off his behind and do his job, is their any politician who is willing to walk the walk??
Campaigners leading the fight to save Brent’s closed libraries are not giving up hope and have vowed to carry on. The news library supporters had been dreading was announced today – that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, will not hear their case.
Margaret Bailey, who helped to take the fight to the High Court and the Appeal Court, said: “Obviously the decision is disappointing, and worrying that judges are able to make decisions that allow for the disregard of laws that are meant to protect people simply so that councils can make cuts. What next? Ignore the Equalities Act, the Human Rights Act because they may be too expensive to enforce?”
Samantha Warrington, Preston Library supporter, believes there should be a public inquiry. She said: “We have always been pursuing other routes. Now the legal avenue has closed we hope there will be a public inquiry and that Brent will consider alternatives in a way Camden has done it so positively.”
Read whole article here.
It appears between our Con-Dem government and Labour council, our library has suffered its terrible fate.
Boyd Tonkin of the Independent sums it up:
…the myopic idiocy of these false economies cuts straight across party lines. In spite of ferocious competition, from Cumbria to Dorset, I would argue that no local authority has behaved with quite such pig-headed arrogance in pursuit of the destruction of much-loved branches as Labour Brent.
Which makes it dismaying, if predictable, that the libraries initiative now launched by shadow arts minister Dan Jarvis contents itself with kneejerk Tory-bashing and fails to examine the mess on Labour’s own municipal shelves.
No wonder so many public-spirited people run a mile from party politics when they see that participation will mean having to check in both mind and heart at the committee-room door”
Alongside Sir David Attenborough and Rebecca Adlington, our campaign seems to have inspired people across the country and The Independent on Sunday. Not quite as hilarious as employee of the week
Team of The Year of course, so we are very happy.
IoS Great Britons 2011
The Independent on Sunday brings you its highly subjective list of the 50 natives of these isles who did most to lift our mood in difficult times. We also mourn those we have lost; ridicule those who deserve it; and celebrate the most inspirational foreigners
Brent library protesters
Residents fighting the closure of six libraries in the London borough of Brent represented the outrage felt by much of the nation’s readers and researchers about cutbacks by staging a round-the-clock protest outside Kensal Rise Library, which was opened by American writer Mark Twain 111 years ago. The campaigners were the first in the country to seek a judicial review into library closures.
Author Kamila Shamsie writes in today’s New York Times...
The part of North London I live in borders the council of Brent, now the site of an intense legal battle to save local libraries that has become the vanguard for similar efforts around the country. On Dec. 29, police officers held back protestors outside Preston Library while local government officials removed all its books, impervious to the nearby poster of Santa, a speech bubble over his head saying “Don’t rely on me; give kids their books back.” Since April 2011, 423 libraries have either closed down or been slated for closure — that’s almost 10 percent of all libraries in Britain.
Read the rest here.
The team who closed your library won not one but two awards in December. While the cash-strapped council wasted another £15,000 in celebrating Sue McKenzie (below, centre) and her team’s noble achievement in destroying Preston, Private Eye came up with a rather more accurate award:
ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS 2011
WHO’S been bullying the electors; who’s been pocketing the brown envelopes; and who doesn’t know the difference between “astronomy” and “astrology”? Find out if your local authority is guilty of crimes against the council taxpayer and picked up a gong in the Rotten Borough Awards 2011…
Congratulations to Brent council’s “team of the year”. Yes, it’s the Library Transformation Team, whose successful 2011 has seen the closure of six of the London borough’s 12 libraries in the face of community outrage.
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.
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??
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.
Read the rest of this entry
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….
PLEASE WRITE IN. Details below….
Committee announces new inquiry INTO LIBRARY CLOSURES
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee [not the DCMS] is today launching a new inquiry into library closures. The Committee is inviting written submissions and requesting views on the following issues:
- what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient library service for the 21st century;
- the extent to which planned library closures are compatible with the requirements of the Libraries & Museums Act 1964 and the Charteris Report;
- the impact library closures have on local communities;
- the effectiveness of the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention
- under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.
A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org and have ‘Library closures’ in the subject line.
Submissions should be received by Thursday 12th January 2012.
Guidance on submitting written evidence…
Our QC, Helen Mountfield, from our original Judicial Review also represented the Gloucestershire and Somerset library campaigners who were successful today in having their closures declared unlawful:
Campaigners attempting to stop the closure of their local libraries have won a surprise victory in the high court after a judge ruled that the decision to axe services in Gloucestershire and Somerset was unlawful and should be quashed.
In his judgment on a three-day judicial review brought by campaigners in the two counties, Judge Martin McKenna found that local authorities had failed to comply with their public sector equality duties when pushing through the closures.
To the gasps and muted exclamations of the campaigners sitting at the back of the court, he ordered the councils to revisit their plans. “I can see no reason why I should not make a quashing order in respect of the decisions I have found unlawful,” he said. Failure to do so, he added, would send the wrong message to other councils.
Read rest of Guardian article here.
Ann John remains silent over her clearly false claim we all live near a library. That was before, Ann, not now.
It gets worse, having privately apologised to Cllr. Lorber after he challenged the claim, anonymous spokespeople are now telling us that we do live near a library, even if it belongs to Harrow!
The Brent Council spokeswoman said it was “nonsense” that the council has been misleading anyone.
She said: “It is true that everyone living in the borough is no more than a mile and a half from a library, either in Brent or a neighbouring borough, and many residents choose to use a library in another borough. This was clearly explained in the proposals.’’
Brent has a legal responsibility to provide a library service for people who live and work in borough. Closing down libraries, and then telling us to go elsewhere is unacceptable and unlawful.
The wonderful Tara Brady of the Times group has a bit more detail on this key indirect discrimination point argues by our QC, Dinah Rose on Thursday and Friday…
“Asian and non-Asian residents all contribute to the local authority’s budget by payment of the council tax. But it is potentially discriminatory for the local authority to target cuts for services which are disproportionately heavily used by Asians.”
Thanks to Wembley Matters blog for the account of today’s Walk to Save Preston Library. Locals from children to octagenarians walked en masse to their “next nearest library” in Kingsbury from South Kenton. With no direct public transport, the walk highlights how the new library system in miles out.
The march took about an hour, excluding a short refreshment stop. As one of the slower ones said, “By the time we get there are books will be gone!”
So, it turns out that Ann John’s claims about us all living within 1.5 miles of a library, aren’t true.
It’s not just to residents that Brent has been lying to. Ann John and James Powney have been blithely telling the national press the same thing for weeks – in the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph no less.
The retraction was only made after a direct challenge. In private. Don’t expect Brent to be nearly as public with the truth. It’s not their way.
According to the “apology”, it seems we used to be within 1.5 miles from a library when we had them, but not anymore. King John used to tell us that most people don’t live within walking distance of a library (when we had 12 local libraries). Now that she’s closed half, suddenly we do.
We should be used to it. Whether it’s telling us our library was poorly located and low usage (it was neither), or that they are forced to make budget cuts, or that we are getting a better service… its always the same. But then, as we take our Appeal to the High Court next week, there is – sadly – no law against politicians lying.
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.
From Wembley Matters blog:
Brent Council’s dismal record of misinformation and disinformation over public libraries, which started of course with the misleadingly named ‘Transformation Project’, has been highlighted again today.
The Brent Magazine, which is still flopping through letter boxes, claimed that all Brent residents were 1.5 miles from a library. Toni McConville, Director of Customer and Community Engagement for Brent Council said:
The information about the 1.5 mile distance that residents would need to travel to a library was provided by the Library Service. An assumption was wrongly made that this meant one of the council’s remaining libraries rather than a library in the vicinity.
I’m sorry for the error and have pointed it out to the communications team so that the mistake is not repeated
At 10 am, we went to the DCMS in central london to present 12,000 signatures and hundreds of letters to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. 400 were by kids alone. We demand he fulfil his responsibility to.investigate whether Brent’s new library service is “comprehensive and efficient” (as it should be under Museums.and Libraries Act 1964).
He met the council in June, but has he heard our side? Nope. The sheer volume of complaints to him should persuade him to do so.
Philip Pullman has lambasted Brent council for its comment that closing half of its libraries would help it fulfil “exciting plans to improve libraries”, describing the statement as a “masterpiece” which “ought to be quoted in every anthology of political bullshit from here to eternity”.
“All the time, you see, the council had been longing to improve the library service, and the only thing standing in the way was – the libraries,”
said the His Dark Materials author, speaking at the national conference of library campaigners on Saturday.
Read the rest of Alison Flood’s article in the Guardian.
The day the council came to cart away our books, a plucky band of Preston-ers were there to stop them…including:
Geraldine Cooke, a publisher just back from the Frankfurt Book Fair, stood close by, honking defiantly on a red horn
given to her in Germany by a US erotica publisher in a gesture of intellectual solidarity. Every now and then, her honks were answered by passing cars.
Cooke, who, along with her fellow campaigners, has been organising petitions and raising £30,000 for a legal fighting fund, said she had no plans to give up the battle. “I think we’ll do it for as long as it takes, even though we’re not many people down here,” she said, nodding at the seven other protesters. “There’s no doubting the passion of the people here.”
Volunteers urgently needed to keep an eye on the library – spare half an hour and keep watch through the day.
This morning valiant Preston locals stopped Brent Council removing books and equipment from the library – a step which could be considered irrevocable ahead of a planned appeal to be lodged this week. In other words, we need to stop anything else happening to our library, or it may be impossible to reverse even if we win an appeal.
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.
Boyd Tonkin’s feature in today really tells it like it is:
Talk to activists about library closures, and even those most upset by the cuts will often accept that local authorities have to make tough choices in taxing times. Sometimes they merely question the direction of the axe, as the year-on-year squeeze enforced by Whitehall leaves councils no option but to reduce expenditure.
However, what if another explanation applied: that some benighted councils actually dislike libraries, distrust their users, and in particular loathe those uppity campaigners who dare to question their decisions? After all, they can and do dismiss these trouble-makers as “middle-class” (however blatantly misleading that is, especially in city centres), as if that amounted to any sort of argument. They may also claim that people can now buy all the books they want cheaply from Asda or Tesco; that everyone reads on computers or Kindles; that paper books mean nothing to fully-wired youngsters.
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.
Having made waves across the Atlantic in the Wall Street Journal, this week the Preston Library Campaign was featured in France’s biggest daily LE MONDE.
Who said we’re running out of steam? After just a few months, Brent SOS Libraries has raised £22,000 – and counting.
The Evening Standard has joined the campaign to Save Our Libraries (across London).In a series of high profile reports, The Standard has noted the attack on Brent’s libraries.
Christopher Platt, who runs 100 Libraries in New York told the paper:
London should be investing in its libraries as vital community assets in times of economic hardship instead of closing them
Full article here.
The Evening Standard reports:
“The effect on children will be the worst. Books are so important, now more than ever. People are so cash strapped that books will be one of the first expenses to go.”
She added: “For boys it’s particularly important because what’s the alternative? Roaming the streets or sticking them in front of the TV and condemn them to not having the vocabulary to express themselves.”
Kathleen Frenchman, chairman of Libraries for Life for Londoners, said: “There are more and more children who cannot afford to buy books. Children will be greatly deprived.
Full article here.
The verdict for the Judicial Review has been postponed until October. This is good news as our libraries will remain open until then. We’re glad the judge is taking his time considering such an important issue.
As Wembley Matters blog explains:
As Brent Council promised to keep the libraries open until the decision this means that the Summer Reading Scheme should go ahead as normal at the six threatened libraries. Bindmans the solicitors handling the case will have talks with Brent’s solicitors to ensure that no significant damage is done to the Brent library service in the meantime.
Meanwhile, we have reached a whopping £20,000 – two thirds of our fundraising target – in just a few month. keep coming to our events, tell your friends and help us save your library.