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Boris finally decides to support our libraries…after they have closed

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.

via Boris Johnson offers his support to Brent library campaigners – News – Kilburn Times.


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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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.”


I spy…. an update on the Appeal

Thanks to Elaine at I Spy in Queens Park blog for her fulsome account of both days of our appeal…

Brent Libraries Latest – the Appeal

Just back from court 63 where Lord Justices Pill, Richards and Davis have spent the last two days hearing the appeal against Mr Justice Ouseley’s decision in favour of Brent Council on 13th October.

After a slightly surreal start with the usher announcing a case involving the “London Borough of Trent“, conjuring up unlikely images of Ann John as Maid Marion, he corrected himself, and the hearing began.  We have a new barrister – Dinah Rose – and she was very impressive.  She opened the case yesterday with the complicated indirect discrimination point – but she explained it so well that I think all 50 or so supporters – (the court was packed and folding chairs had to be brought it!) may now be able to explain it to someone else.
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Day 1 of The Appeal

Here’s a snapshot of some of the happenings at court yesterday courtesy of Martin Francis. The hearing resumes today at 10.30 at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand.

For more background see our Legal page.

The public gallery  of Court 63 was crowded with Brent library campaigners today as the first day of the Appeal was being heard.  The Appellant’s QC made it clear that the library campaigners’ case was based on the process that Brent Council followed in its consultation and decision to close the libraries, rather than whether it was right to close libraries as such.

She focused particularly on the Council’s failure to recognise that its own data signalled the possibility that the closure of the six libraries would indirectly discriminate against the Asian population of Brent. The figures showed that whilst Asians constituted 28% of the Brent population, they accounted for 46% of library users while the white population of 45% accounted for only 29% of users. As 3 of the six libraries that were closed served areas with higher than average  Asian population,  they were left with only Ealing Road library in the ward with the most dense Asian population. (Before the closure of the other libraries more than 60% of Ealing Road users were Asian)  So not only were people deprived of their own libraries but the remaining library at Ealing Road, as later evidence testified, had become over-crowded as a result of the closures.

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TODAY: Appeal @ High Court – 10.30am The Strand

Brent SOS library campaign will be at the High Court to appeal against the unnecessary closure of 50% of Brent’s libraries by the Labour-run council.

10.30 am at Courtroom 63 – The Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand, London.
Rally from 9.30am – Nearest tube: Temple, Holborn and Charing Cross (in that order)

The hearing will last 1 ½ days, possibly extending a little into Friday afternoon. The Appellants’ (i.e. Margaret, Steve and Nipuni’s) new QC, Dinah Rose, will open and close the case with the Council’s QC making her own submissions half way through. Dinah will argue the Council:

  • did not appreciate the likely impact of its plans to close libraries on particular groups in the community, such as Asian people, and without understanding this impact properly could not make a lawful decision compatible with its Equality Act 2010 duties to eliminate discrimination;
  • did not assess need for local library services, especially that of children; and
  • was unfair to community groups who put forward proposals to save the threatened libraries.

We cannot say for sure when there will be a judgment, but it is likely to be forthcoming very quickly – the Court fully appreciates the importance and urgency of this case.

Details of July’s Judicial Review and outcome here.


The Long March to Kingsbury Library

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!”

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Public Lies, Private Apologies

Council Leader Ann John (Labour) caught out

Council Leader Ann John (Labour)

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.


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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Lies, Damn Lies, and Library Transformation

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



Saturday: The Walk to Save Preston Library – 1.30pm South Kenton station

Show Jeremy Hunt why Brent’s 21st Century library service is miles out!!

We’re going to walk to our nearest library this Saturday 5 November. Join us and show the politicians just how close Kingsbury library really is.

Everyone welcome – dress as your favourite book or character!

Saturday 5 November – 1.30pm – South Kenton station (Windermere Ave)

Kenton, Preston and Barn Hill ward councillors have been invited – let’s hope they join us and show where they stand/walk!




SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER – Save Preston Library Disco Dance

Dance and party the night away with your friends to hits from the 60s, 70s 80s and now!
Bring snacks and nibbles to share!

Preston Mall Community Centre, The Mall, Kenton, HA3 9UA

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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



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!


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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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