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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.


VIDEO: National Libraries Day

Thanks to Your News UK Community TV

Your Library Needs You!

Credit: Phil Bradley


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.


Boyd Tonkin: The branch line to another life

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”


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.



Community turns out in force to Save Preston Library

The fight is far from over. The hall was packed, reinvigorating all of us. Preston needs it’s Library and a fair deal from the council.


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Sat 4 February – National Libraries Day

Children’s activity day @ Preston Park School, College Road… 10.15am – 4pm… Storytelling, pop-up library, guest authors, art corner..and more.

What the Dickens! Celebrate 200 years of Dickens @ The Windermere… 7.30pm… Readings, Open Mic, guest poets and of course ale. Come dressed up in your favourite Victorian garb.

Who said Preston Library is dead??

Poster for Children's activity day


2012 – The Fight Goes On!



Tuesday 31st January – Public Meeting

poster announcing a public meeting for Preston Library on 31 Jan 2012


Our campaign named one of 50 Great Britons 2011 by Independent on Sunday

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.



@The Preston Pub (opposite Preston Library)
7.30pm (for 8pm start)

Professional quizmaster, raffle and prizes!

Come along and show your support for a hard fought campaign. It’s not over yet!



NYT: The Demise of the Public Library

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.


Brent is a Rotten Borough 2011

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:


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.

Sue McKenzie and her Library Transformation Team with council's ludicrous Team of the year


Shamed Council take down Wall of Shame

Council Leader Ann John criticised on the Wall of ShameYesterday, contractors pulled down the Brent ‘Wall of Shame’ hiding Preston Library. This follows a sneaky move to empty it of books and equipment last week, before any injunction to stop it could be issued.

The Wall, with its popular support from local artists and schoolchildren, has become a major embarrassment to the Council over the last few weeks and they have finally decided that perhaps it was not such a good idea after all

It would be interesting to learn exactly how much this futile exercise of paying contractors to erect the Wall – and then take it down again – has actually cost Council Tax payers.

Unfortunately for Brent Council, the Wall is unlikely to be forgotten – we have photos galore.


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.


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….









SAT 17 DEC: Christmas Party @The Windermere Pub

7.30pm. A chance for the community to celebrate how far we’ve come fighting the good fight.

Not fundraising, just fun!


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Local children plea for library

400 letters written by children to Brent Labour - all were ignored

400 letters written by children to Brent Labour - all were ignored

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STOP PRESS: MPs launch inquiry into library closures

Parliamentary Committee investigates library closuresThe same people who have been grilling the Murdoch’s lately have turned their attention to libraries. This can only be a good thing.

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 and have ‘Library closures’ in the subject line.
Submissions should be received by Thursday 12th January 2012.

Guidance on submitting written evidence

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Olympians save library (we wish)

Olympic Mascots race in to save a library - if only!


Gloucestershire & Somerset campaigners win legal challenge

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.


Council tells residents to use libraries in another borough

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.


Discriminating Decisions

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.”

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