News

Brent Council recommends closing six libraries

Brent Council has recommended closing six of its libraries, as protests continue against the cuts.

The report follows a three-month community consultation on Brent's "Libraries Transformation Project". It has been published ahead of the final meeting of the executive committee on 11th April, when it will decide on its library policy.

Despite lobbying from organisations such as Save Preston Library Campaign and Save Kensal Rise Library, which has gained high-profile support from author Zadie Smith, the report suggests Barham Park, Cricklewood, Neasden, Preston, Tokyngton and Kensal Rise libraries should be closed.

Six libraries will remain open and the town hall/civic centre library will move to the new Civic Centre building in 2013. The report said "a large state of the art library will be the showpiece of the new building".

The council recommended seven-day opening for all remaining libraries, including two late nights, plus longer opening hours for students during exam periods. It also advised increasing its e-book and audio offer, as well as offering online services for borrowers.

A spokesperson for the Preston and Kensal Rise campaign groups said: "Local libraries, to which children, teenagers, elderly people and those with mobility issues can walk, and whose sole purpose is to lend books and offer information are not a priority [for the council]."

The spokesperson said rather than offering new digital services such as recording talks for broadcast on YouTube or virtual reading groups, the council should focus on the statutory duty set out in the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

Campaigners handed over a petition with more than 6,000 signatures objecting to the proposed closure of Preston Road library last week [30th March].

Speaking at a meeting last week [29th March] author Zadie Smith, who has been vocal in her support of Kensal Rise Library, said the government's policy was "so shameful that they will never live it down".

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So, where, exactly, is the money supposed to come from ?

The savings that are needed can come from the central costs of the library service in Brent and from the apportioned overhead from Brent council. There is no need to close any library. Across London there is £50m that can be saved without closing any library - and with additional expenditure on books, opening hours and the buildings. It is not hard to see what could be done.

We fired three Storm Shadow cruise missiles at Libyan targets in the initial stages of the campaign against Gadaffi the other day, at about £2M a pop. This was kind of a pointless token effort given that the USA were firing 200 or so, but still: £6M in minutes. The last figure I saw was £25m spent so far?

Anon asks where the money is supposed to come from, but there's always money for missiles - and if the man from the HMRC hadn't cut a staggeringly moronic deal with Vodafone we might have a good £4.5bn more in the kitty.

Or there's the 2012 Olympics - a massive white elephant for London that, in common with every other Olympics of modern times, will deliver no tangible lasting economic or cultural benefits that couldn't have been delivered more cheaply doing something else.

Brent is a seriously deprived area. Very large numbers of children have English as a second language and come from homes without much access to books. Let alone high rates of unemployment, and pensioners living in poverty. Cutting library services in an area like this is criminal. I lived in Harlesden for nearly ten years, I've seen firsthand how dependent much of the local community is on these resources - from young mums teaching themselves and their babies English simultaneously, to people desperately looking for jobs on the free internet, to pensioners looking for community.

On several occasions I had kids aged 6-7 ask me (a complete stranger, though female and with my own kids) to read them books. They couldn't read themselves, they had no adult with them to help, but they wanted stories.

It's heartbreaking that these libraries should be even considered for closure. Shame on Brent Council.

To 'iucounu'. I don't know if you would allow the possible ways to avoid spending on arms in Libya or on the Olympics as 'political' decisions-- but what I am talking about is just £50m of wasted money. It is expenditure budgeted, labelled and spent as money for libraries which simply makes no difference to the quality of the library service. That's what I think should be saved as a matter of good administration, regardless of the larger issues about political priorities

Sure, waste should be avoided whenever possible. I'm always a bit dubious about waste-cutting solutions in general though because they seem to be a magic way to find more money in any context when the budget rolls around.

I do think we also need to keep up the pressure on the government's political priorities, because otherwise we may just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Anon also seems to have forgotten that billions of pounds of public money had to be found to bail out the greedy incompetents who wrecked the country's finances in 2008. And don't forget that millions of pounds are still being handed out for banker bonuses, whilst poorly paid library assistants endure years of pay freezes, attacks on their pensions and the constant threat of redundancy. Perhaps we've all got it wrong and it was library assistants that caused the economic crash....

iucounu. I am not talking about 'waste cutting solutions in general' and- James- I am certainly not talking about Library Assistants. I am talking very specifically about the management of the public library service, particularly in London, where Brent is one of 32 boroughs with its own library management and infrastructure and systems to run previously 12 libraries, and now just 6. There is waste and it should be cut before closing libraries. No need to seek a wider political soluution. The London public library sercvice costs £200m per annum to run 380 libraries. A large amount of that is wasted money.

I agree with Unromantic that to close any libraries in Brent is shameful. I also lived in the Harlesden area for about ten years and can confirm their central place in the life of the community.

A library in any area of social deprivation provides access to facilities that are considered to be 'normal' these days; such as the internet. Removing access to these emphasizes the gap between the haves and the have nots in a cruel way.

If Brent Council, or any other local authority, wants to reduce costs dare I suggest that it looks at the level of the top executive salaries?

The Results of the Consultation process undertaken by Brent as part of its Transformation of the Libraries Project show 82% in favour of keeping all 12 libraries: the Head of Libraries seems to choose to ignore their own findings in her Report. In this report it is clear that the decision to cut the 6 libraries was taken before the consultaion period ended and in the face of Borough-wide opposition to this. Over 6000 people have signed a petiton to demand that Preston Library be kept own. There is a clear need and desire accross all residents for this library to be local and not housed in a mega-library inaccessible to many if not most. The Orwellian Virtual Library that is to be built according to the Head of Libraries report is to be a Hub of machines, thereby disenfranchising many of Brent's residents who contrary to what the Executive think do not possess computers nor is 'everyone' in possession of a Kindle.

The Results of the Consultation process undertaken by Brent as part of its Transformation of the Libraries Project show 82% in favour of keeping all 12 libraries: the Head of Libraries seems to choose to ignore their own findings in her Report. In this report it is clear that the decision to cut the 6 libraries was taken before the consultaion period ended and in the face of Borough-wide opposition to this. Over 6000 people have signed a petiton to demand that Preston Library be kept open. There is a clear need and desire accross all residents for this library to be local and not housed in a mega-library inaccessible to many if not most. The Orwellian Virtual Library that is to be built according to the Head of Libraries report is to be a Hub of machines, thereby disenfranchising many of Brent's residents who contrary to what the Executive think do not possess computers nor is 'everyone' in possession of a Kindle.

This just goes to show that all consultations are a sham. They're just lip service. The decisions have already been made. In wirral the same thing happened, everyone voted to keep the libraries open and it was proven that a super library would not be accessible, viable or ever happen in reality and yet the council said they listened to the consultation and then recommended exactly what they said they'd do BEFORE the consultation. Makes no difference. In wirral though people power eventually won as it was proven that the council had acted both illegally and dishonestly in the process, so it may be worth digging through the paperwork. Unfortunately, the Tories have dismantled the processes people in other boroughs have used to fight the closures.

So, where, exactly, is the money supposed to come from ?

The savings that are needed can come from the central costs of the library service in Brent and from the apportioned overhead from Brent council. There is no need to close any library. Across London there is £50m that can be saved without closing any library - and with additional expenditure on books, opening hours and the buildings. It is not hard to see what could be done.

We fired three Storm Shadow cruise missiles at Libyan targets in the initial stages of the campaign against Gadaffi the other day, at about £2M a pop. This was kind of a pointless token effort given that the USA were firing 200 or so, but still: £6M in minutes. The last figure I saw was £25m spent so far?

Anon asks where the money is supposed to come from, but there's always money for missiles - and if the man from the HMRC hadn't cut a staggeringly moronic deal with Vodafone we might have a good £4.5bn more in the kitty.

Or there's the 2012 Olympics - a massive white elephant for London that, in common with every other Olympics of modern times, will deliver no tangible lasting economic or cultural benefits that couldn't have been delivered more cheaply doing something else.

Brent is a seriously deprived area. Very large numbers of children have English as a second language and come from homes without much access to books. Let alone high rates of unemployment, and pensioners living in poverty. Cutting library services in an area like this is criminal. I lived in Harlesden for nearly ten years, I've seen firsthand how dependent much of the local community is on these resources - from young mums teaching themselves and their babies English simultaneously, to people desperately looking for jobs on the free internet, to pensioners looking for community.

On several occasions I had kids aged 6-7 ask me (a complete stranger, though female and with my own kids) to read them books. They couldn't read themselves, they had no adult with them to help, but they wanted stories.

It's heartbreaking that these libraries should be even considered for closure. Shame on Brent Council.

To 'iucounu'. I don't know if you would allow the possible ways to avoid spending on arms in Libya or on the Olympics as 'political' decisions-- but what I am talking about is just £50m of wasted money. It is expenditure budgeted, labelled and spent as money for libraries which simply makes no difference to the quality of the library service. That's what I think should be saved as a matter of good administration, regardless of the larger issues about political priorities

Sure, waste should be avoided whenever possible. I'm always a bit dubious about waste-cutting solutions in general though because they seem to be a magic way to find more money in any context when the budget rolls around.

I do think we also need to keep up the pressure on the government's political priorities, because otherwise we may just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Anon also seems to have forgotten that billions of pounds of public money had to be found to bail out the greedy incompetents who wrecked the country's finances in 2008. And don't forget that millions of pounds are still being handed out for banker bonuses, whilst poorly paid library assistants endure years of pay freezes, attacks on their pensions and the constant threat of redundancy. Perhaps we've all got it wrong and it was library assistants that caused the economic crash....

iucounu. I am not talking about 'waste cutting solutions in general' and- James- I am certainly not talking about Library Assistants. I am talking very specifically about the management of the public library service, particularly in London, where Brent is one of 32 boroughs with its own library management and infrastructure and systems to run previously 12 libraries, and now just 6. There is waste and it should be cut before closing libraries. No need to seek a wider political soluution. The London public library sercvice costs £200m per annum to run 380 libraries. A large amount of that is wasted money.

I agree with Unromantic that to close any libraries in Brent is shameful. I also lived in the Harlesden area for about ten years and can confirm their central place in the life of the community.

A library in any area of social deprivation provides access to facilities that are considered to be 'normal' these days; such as the internet. Removing access to these emphasizes the gap between the haves and the have nots in a cruel way.

If Brent Council, or any other local authority, wants to reduce costs dare I suggest that it looks at the level of the top executive salaries?

The Results of the Consultation process undertaken by Brent as part of its Transformation of the Libraries Project show 82% in favour of keeping all 12 libraries: the Head of Libraries seems to choose to ignore their own findings in her Report. In this report it is clear that the decision to cut the 6 libraries was taken before the consultaion period ended and in the face of Borough-wide opposition to this. Over 6000 people have signed a petiton to demand that Preston Library be kept own. There is a clear need and desire accross all residents for this library to be local and not housed in a mega-library inaccessible to many if not most. The Orwellian Virtual Library that is to be built according to the Head of Libraries report is to be a Hub of machines, thereby disenfranchising many of Brent's residents who contrary to what the Executive think do not possess computers nor is 'everyone' in possession of a Kindle.

The Results of the Consultation process undertaken by Brent as part of its Transformation of the Libraries Project show 82% in favour of keeping all 12 libraries: the Head of Libraries seems to choose to ignore their own findings in her Report. In this report it is clear that the decision to cut the 6 libraries was taken before the consultaion period ended and in the face of Borough-wide opposition to this. Over 6000 people have signed a petiton to demand that Preston Library be kept open. There is a clear need and desire accross all residents for this library to be local and not housed in a mega-library inaccessible to many if not most. The Orwellian Virtual Library that is to be built according to the Head of Libraries report is to be a Hub of machines, thereby disenfranchising many of Brent's residents who contrary to what the Executive think do not possess computers nor is 'everyone' in possession of a Kindle.

This just goes to show that all consultations are a sham. They're just lip service. The decisions have already been made. In wirral the same thing happened, everyone voted to keep the libraries open and it was proven that a super library would not be accessible, viable or ever happen in reality and yet the council said they listened to the consultation and then recommended exactly what they said they'd do BEFORE the consultation. Makes no difference. In wirral though people power eventually won as it was proven that the council had acted both illegally and dishonestly in the process, so it may be worth digging through the paperwork. Unfortunately, the Tories have dismantled the processes people in other boroughs have used to fight the closures.