Opinion: Brent Labour’s shocking tactics over library closures

Running a Council is tough.  Times are hard, budgets feel like they are shrinking.  It was said before the 2010 General Election that the measures needed to put the economy right would be so harsh that whoever won would be out of power for a generation subsequently.  All the more reason for Councils and Government to ensure that there is sensitive handling and community working on a very local level.

So as a councillor in Queen’s Park, Brent, I have been shocked, appalled and ashamed at the handling of the proposed closure of libraries in my area by the Labour Council.

Kensal Rise is a small but popular library, opened by Mark Twain, over 100 years old, and with a community who want it to remain open.  Since Labour decided to close it residents have asked for the chance to run it, have asked for extra time, have asked for dialogue and even went to court to save their Library.

If Labour had invested the money on legal fees into the library it would be open today.  But Labour have shown themselves in their true colours – they closed the library, the have mislead residents time and time again, they have dodged negotiations and refused to enable a real and meaningful dialogue with All Soul’s College, Oxford.  Then they removed their leader Cllr Ann John in an internal coup and in came Cllr Mohammed Butt with a promise to handle this better.

But then at 3am onTuesday Cllr Butt and Labour Council sent in 12 police and staff to clear the library of all the books, removed the historic 1930’s murals and take down the plaque to commemorate Mark Twain.

Whatever the budget situation this has been a disgrace – Labour are showing a total disregard for local people, for libraries, for learning and of the future.  Their decision on libraries I think is wrong and should be changed – but their handling and tactics have been truly shameful, aggressive and shocking.

What is needed now to restore any hint of confidence is a total apology, a real dialogue with residents designed to restore their library and a complete rejection of the use of 2am, police backed, bully boy tactics.  So Cllr Butt, are you really listening?

* Cllr Simon Green is a Liberal Democrat Councillor In Queen’s Park ward, Brent.

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12 Comments

  • I would say its more a case of the Conservative / Liberal Democrats shocking tactics in removing funding from boroughs such as Brent forcing them to take actions to cut costs – Lib Dems in government should hang their heads in shame

  • Richard Shaw 31st May '12 - 12:12pm

    @Lucy,

    Nothing the government has done can justify the appalling actions described above. The blame for the decision to close the library and the poor handling of the situation lies squarely with the Labour administration.

  • Labour have acted disgracefully over this and have shown the people of Brent their true colours.

  • Get real Lucy.

    The only reason our interest rates are low, we have our AAA status, and we are securing new investment in manufacturing is confidence that the Government are serious about eliminating the deficit, and this is what will drive growth. You don’t have to look far for counter-examples at the moment.

    We haven’t closed a single library in our area, but we have saved money by working with parish councils and transferring ownership where they are willing. The circumstances here are entirely local, and Labour have no-one to blame but themselves here.

  • Do you still live in Queen’s Park Simon?

  • Lucy – letting local volunteers run the library wouldn’t cost Brent a penny. Instead, the local community has lost the use of a million pound property that can’t be used for any other purpose and so has reverted to its original owners.

    In fact, as stated above, Brent’s action actually cost money – they’ve spend a small fortune in legal fees fighting their own voters.

    Whatever you think about how necessary the cuts are (and all parties accept the need for significant cuts), Brent’s actions here have been disgraceful.

  • david thorpe 31st May '12 - 3:37pm

    @ lucy

    those libraries can stay opne, the lib dems presented a plan for it..labour decliend to do it.
    thats why no Lib Dem run council has clsoed a single sure start centre or library anywhere in the country.
    Labour’s propaganda would like their cuts to be our fault…but in the rwal world it doesntw ash…thats why lib dem electionr esults in brent havent been that nbad since the government was formed

  • David Thorpe, is your argument really that Labour are closing libraries to spite the coalition?

  • mike cobley 1st Jun '12 - 10:18am

    @tpfkar – “The only reason our interest rates are low, we have our AAA status, and we are securing new investment in manufacturing is confidence that the Government are serious about eliminating the deficit, and this is what will drive growth.”

    Right, because as everyone knows this country is at the mercy of the bond markets, the speculators and international investors who could at any time pull the plug on the pound and sink our economy faster than a lifebelt made of bricks. Congratulations – Neville Chamberlain couldn’t have done any better.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 1st Jun '12 - 3:40pm

    How can you say “Whatever the budget situation this has been a disgrace” without identifying where else the £1m budget savings (per the local rag) would come from. The only source you have identified is “legal fees” – but if these relate to additional costs that have now been incurred that still means that the original £1m still has to be found frm some where, assuming that the old rule about local authorities balancing budgets still applies. So Cllr Green please stop the old LibDem game of trying to be all things to all people – and tell us where else you would find the savings that are required in no small part due to the actions of your own party nationally. Personally, I cannot think of a nice way of closing libraries or making many of the other cuts that are being demanded.

  • @Lucy Brent’s Labour bosses are squireling money away by boosting the councils reserves (presumably for a 2014 pre-election spending binge).

  • toryboysnevergrowup 1st Jun '12 - 10:48pm

    “Labour bosses are squireling money away by boosting the councils reserves”

    I thought I’d do a little fact checking on this – the 2012/13 budget adds only £1m to Brent’s reserves which are one of lowest in London and which the Audit Commission has highlighted as an area of concern. So I ask again where else should the £1m come from Cllr Green?

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