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Open letter to Jeremy Hunt. We await his courteous reply.

It’s been a difficult few weeks for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.  Jeremy Hunt at Leveson

Last week, he endured six straight hours of questioning by Robert Jay QC at the Leveson Enquiry set up to investigate the phone hacking scandal:

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):

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The next stage: challenge the DCMS

Louise Mensch and Tom Watson from Media & Culture Select CommitteeAlthough our legal challenge through the courts has come to an end, it is not over. We are now going to challenge the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt on his department’s failure to investigate library closures for more than a year.

We will do this on two fronts. Today, our legal team has sent a letter demanding action. The DCMS met with Brent Council last year, but has so far ignored thousands of complaints made by us.

And tomorrow, the cross-party Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport is holding its enquiry into national library closures: Tuesday 7 February, 10.30am, Palace of Westminster, Committee Room 15 (it’ll be packed so get there early)

Over 130 submissions were made by all sorts of groups and people. It makes for very interesting reading.

You can find our 3 submissions at pgs 133, 366 and 544 as well as one from Barry Gardiner MP (pg. 583) and the inevitable defence from Brent Council (pg. 608). You can read them all here.

Labour leader’s plan to save libraries, just not in Brent

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??

 

Campaign will go on – despite Supreme Court setback

Tara Brady writes in the Kilburn Times

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.

banners hung outside Preston Library read: "Give us back our library. The fight goes on" and "This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will"

 

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.

TODAY: Special Delivery for Jeremy Hunt

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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 declares war against ‘stupidity’ of library closures

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.

Preston Vigil continues – volunteers welcome

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The people who thought it would be easy to deprive us of our last remaining service, who thought we don’t care enough, never expected their Wall of Shame would be transformed into our community message board, telling Ann John that we want our library back.

It’s half term, the weather was very nice today and we plan to stay put, collecting letters and signatures to demand the government intervenes – they will only do this if we bury them in letters and petitions. We are running a rota, so if you fancy volunteering an hour of your time this week, please let us know. There is food, chairs and plenty of friendly people to meet. It’s actually really good fun!

Email ussaveprestonroadlibrary@gmail.com

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Council required to leave libraries alone until Appeal in November

The Guardian (among others) writes:

A judge has fast-tracked an urgent hearing of an appeal against Brent council’s closure of six libraries.

Lord Justice Elias granted an appeal against a ruling made last week in the high court that Brent council’s decision was lawful. He ordered that attempts should be made for it to be heard before the court of appeal on two days early next month.

Brent council has agreed, in the meantime, to take no irrevocable steps to prevent the libraries reopening in the event of the appeal being won.

Campaigners have mounted vigils outside two of the threatened libraries, Preston Road, which has already been boarded up by the council, and Kensal Rise, to ensure they are not emptied of books or computers while the legal dispute continues.

The valiant campaigners who have braved the cold outside Preston night and day since Monday can breathe a small sigh of relief.   You have made national news and we salute you.

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Library campaigners mount vigils to prevent Brent council clearing shelves

The day the council came to cart away our books, a plucky band of Preston-ers were there to stop them…including:

My favourite photo

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.”

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Locals prevent removal of books from Library…for now.

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.

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The Day the Vandals Moved In…

…and we vowed to avenge our library. We must stop the council from removing books and furniture from OUR library.

At time of writing, Kensal Rise library remains ‘open’ as children and adults heroically prevented the council from boarding it up. It has been a 24 hour vigil. For LIVE updates click here.

Meanwhile, dozens Preston library users were aghast to find a huge wall as they came to…er… use the library after school. Clearly the council had prepared the closure in advance of the verdict.

 

 

 

We will continue the fight to save much-needed libraries

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:

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Residents can expect just 3 functioning libraries in “21st Century”

As Brent Council slashes library services in half, telling people to “buy books in Tesco” and “get on a bus”, little do residents realise that of the 6 remaining libraries, only 3 are ‘fit for purpose’. Kilburn “needs major upgrade”, Willesden Green is set to be knocked down and rebuilt and funding is being sought for Kingsbury to be rebuilt/enlarged. That leaves just 3 usable libraries in Brent Council’s vision of a “21st century library service”.

Preston users have been told to go to Kingsbury, but this is clearly not big enough. So where will they go? The new £ 3 million mega-library our cash-strapped council found money for. How convenient. At least for the council. It’s too far for children, the elderly and disabled (who most use the existing library) , there’s no parking and rising public trasport fares make this ‘free’ service, not so free.

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STOP PRESS: Verdict to be announced Thursday

Our judicial review – the first in the UK – took place in July and the wait for a verdict is almost over. This Thursday 13th October at 10 am at the High Court (Strand), we will find out just what Mr Justice Ousely  has to say about library closures in Brent in a ruling that could affect local councils across the country.

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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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Throw the book at the library-haters

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.

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Saturday 1 Oct – Karaoke & Dance to Sweet Sounds @ The Windermere

Don’t miss the 2nd Preston dance…with added Karaoke! Such a success the last time around, we’re doing it again.
8pm @ The Windermere Pub
Just £5 entry.
Noel the landlord has kindly invited you to bring a plate of nibbles to share. Maybe some more gingerbread councillors? Or some SOS scones?

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Introducing…Brent Reading Circle

Otherwise known as a Book Club – it’s a chance for reading enthusiasts to get together and discuss that thing Brent Council says is “obsolete” – books!

It has been set up by an active Preston Library Supporter – a local version of an international idea: regular and friendly meetings to talk about a favourite book. There will be opportunities to buy and sell books too.

For more information and ways to get involved see their website here.

http://brentreaders.wordpress.com/

TONIGHT: Film Screening – Cruel Separation

Cruel Separation is the award-winning story of General Pinochet’s American backed military coup in Chile in 1973, told through the eyes of four women who lived through it and narrated by Donald Sutherland. Chile coup

Friday 23rd September in Kilburn. 

Plus Q&A with Director, Sarah Boston  

7pm
Kingsgate Community Centre,
107 Kingsgate Road, Kilburn, London NW6 2JH
£10/8 – for tickets, email us

Refreshments available.

The film covers the coup from different perspectives and how the four women survived, picked up their lives afterwards and carried on in exile and back in Chile, to tell their stories of love and loss.

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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.

Le Monde: the Preston Bibliotheque Campaign

Le Monde on Preston LibraryHaving 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.

You can read the original French here. Or a rough English translation here (we’re working on a proper translation).

Who said we’re running out of steam? After just a few months, Brent SOS Libraries has raised £22,000 – and counting.

With special London tours, an exclusive film screening, and karaoke to come, there are plenty more ways to help. Keep checking our EVENTS page and other ways to get involved.

TONIGHT: The Great Preston Pub Quiz…

It’s the 4th Great Preston Pub Quiz. If you haven’t already been, this could be your last chance to experience the most talked about events of the year (in Preston) – prizes to won and a right-proper quizmistress, the wonderful Frances!

Bring friends, or just yourself!

7.30pm
£5 (£3 concs)
@ The Preston Pub, opposite the library  – MAP HERE

Take a leaf out of New York’s book: Invest in your libraries, don’t close them

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.

‘Library cuts will be devastating for children’

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.”

Library cuts will be devastating for children

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.

Sending out an SOS to the world

Some memories of just a few of our SOS events this summer…

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Demand a government enquiry – NOW!

Urgent News

The government is to decide in SEPTEMBER whether it will intervene in Brent. It is absolutely vital you ALL write to Jeremy Hunt (at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) and demand an enquiry. This could save our library, but it needs hundreds of letters and emails to be sent as soon as possible – they said they would make a decision by September, this hasn’t happened, so we still have time.

Thousands are affected by the closure of Preston Library, thousands of letters must land on Jeremy’s desk.

It takes 2 minutes to write a short email. Do it now. Get your neighbours and kids to sign it.

What can you do?

1. Write a short email by clicking: huntj@parliament.uk

  • tell the Secretary of State why you will not be able to use another library if we lose ours – they may be too far, you may have small children who cannot go on their own, you can’t afford the bus fares, you have a disability and can’t travel easily. How will the loss of Preston Library affect YOU.

2. Download this:  Letter to Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP – Aug 2011

  • Add your own comments and sign OR just sign as it is and email to: huntj@parliament.uk
  • Personalised letters are less likely to be dismissed, so please try to add own comments of you can

3. Just send us your name and address and we’ll add you to our petition. Email us: saveprestonroadlibrary@gmail.com

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Ruling postponed till October

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.

 

 

Film: What is Brent about to lose?

YNUKtv is a fresh new channel with an output inspired by people in communities across the UK. People like us. They came to record what we are losing for posterity. Follow the YouTube channel here.

Latest campaign news

The verdict on our landmark Judicial Review could come this week, or we may have to wait longer.

Sign up to the email list and you will get the very latest – when we know it, you’ll know it.  Until we are assured the library will stay open and continue to do what it has done so well for decades, we will keep going. We still need your help to lobby and raise money – but we’re making it as easy and fun as possible….

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Private Eye eyes Brent

Brent Libraries in Private Eye

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