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.

image

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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

Quote

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.