Comment

Brent have already closed the libraries affected by the Court decision, at 11.15 this morning.  They could hardly wait. Events have moved to other branches, books are being left unreturned.  The indecent haste, which denies children event the chance to use the libraries over the forthcoming half term, is almost as unpleasant as the Mail today blaming the cuts on “Loony Lefties”.  Let us be clear, the decision is nothing of the kind.  Councils of all political stripe are closing libraries.  Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset are all Conservative led councils. The picture in each and every cutting authority is that the opposition councillors in each authority attacks it, regardless of party.  The Conservative controlled DCMS is a study in inaction, as is the Labour opposition.  Libraries are being left out to dry by everyone but the public, who are demonstrating their love for books in their droves.  The only difference today is that it is a Judge that is putting the boot in, not an elected official.
This is a dark day for the campaigners there who have worked so hard to raise money for the action and for putting the case together.  It is also a depressing one for those who think that the decision in one council case will naturally mean that all other challenges will be lost.  However, this is not the case, each one should be heard on its own merits.  For the people of Brent, it is now up to the people that should have been involved all along – Jeremy Hunt, Ed Vaizey and the DCMS – to step in and do their job.  Otherwise, one wonders why they even pretend to represent the interests of library users when they apparently just sit back and allow half of the library provision in a borough to close without lifting a finger to demur.
“Speaking for the campaigners, resident Margaret Bailey expressed her disappointment and her determination to appeal. “We believe that there are important points of principle at stake that an appeal court will decide differently. Our campaign will redouble its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent Council’s decision to close half of its libraries,” she said. “Although this seems an unequal struggle between Brent Council, with its extensive resources, and the people of Brent, who have waged the largest campaign ever seen in the 45-year history of the borough, we will be redoubling our efforts to prevent six libraries being closed for ever.”

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.”

Brent News
“Public libraries are in danger of going the way of the public phone box, Blockbuster stores and fax machines. But while no one really kicked up a fuss when phone boxes and Blockbuster started receding into irrelevance (except perhaps in the case of the former, when youths were caught short), libraries are a much more emotive kettle of fish.”

  • Books left unreturned following sudden closure of six libraries in BrentBrent and Kilburn Times.  “Brent Council closed six libraries in the borough today without giving people time to return borrowed books and DVDs. Dozens of people have been visiting the libraries this afternoon to drop off their borrowed items but are being told to take them elsewhere.” … “There is even a security guard on the door. How much of taxpayers’ money is going on paying this security guard when the library itself has closed? It is outrageous.”
“Councillor Paul Lorber, leader of Brent Liberal Democrat group, said: “It is a disgrace to close the libraries without even allowing borrowers to bring their books back.“ It’s simply vindictive to deny young children their half-term fun – especially as it is children who will be affected most by the library closures.“There is no good reason why the libraries shouldn’t stay open over half-term and until we know whether there will be an appeal.”

  • Brent campaigners vow to fight on - BookSeller.Campaigner Samantha Warrington said Mr Justice Ouseley’s judgement in favour of Brent council was “very disappointing” and vowed to take the case to the court of appeal. “We believe there are important points of law and principle. The judge didn’t think this case had national significance but we think it does.” … Analysis of judge’s decision.
  • Brent libraries closure battle lost - Independent.  “Labour culture spokesman Dan Jarvis said: “Libraries are an important part of local communities, helping to provide vital services to people of all age groups. This Tory-led Government has forced councils across the country to make cuts to these important services. Today’s judgment has shown that Labour-led Brent Council are making the best of a very bad situation.”
  • Brent libraries shut doors for last time after court decision - London Evening Standard.  Judge ” said that while he agreed the case was of concern to people in Brent, that it was not of “national interest” as campaigners had argued. He added: “There are a number of people in Brent who are understandably concerned about libraries but I’m not sure about national interest,” he added. “This judgement may or may not be of assistance to other judgements in the future.”
  • Brent library campaigners lose court bid against closures - BBC. “A Brent Council spokeswoman said “all the six libraries which the executive decided to close in April are now closed, and are being made secure” after protesters reported that libraries were being “boarded” and “locked-up”….”council lawyers said the decision was “rational, made with great care and was based on a full appreciation of the obligation to act within the law” and the judge ruled in the authority’s favour.”
  • Brent library closures battle lostIndependent. “Campaigners are preparing to go to the Court of Appeal after losing their High Court challenge against library cuts.”.  Council says “]
  • High Court bid to halt library closures fails - Guardian. “The decision is bad news for library campaigners across the country, who are battling the closures of hundreds of libraries around the UK. Campaigners in Somerset and Gloucestershire, awaiting the results of another judicial review, will be particularly disappointed.” … “”Although this seems an unequal struggle between Brent Council, with its extensive resources, and the people of Brent, who have waged the largest campaign ever seen in the 45-year history of the borough, we will be redoubling our efforts to prevent six libraries being closed for ever.”
  • Kensal Rise library: opened by Mark Twain, closed by depressing legalese - Guardian.  “The judgment delivered at the narrow, cold high court showed only the huge gap between the arcana of the judicial, bureaucratic mindset and the facts as seen by ordinary people” … “The stories that help us understand each other, the non-fiction that gives us the tools to survive in the world, the picture books that help toddlers make sense of themselves – are they to be only for rich people now? Brent’s Labour council should hang their heads in shame.”
  • Leader of opposition group on Brent Council, Councillor Paul Lorber, says campaigners will “not give up” against library closuresHarrow Times.  “It’s been a fantastic campaign by hundreds and thousands of people and the campaign continues. We are determined to save our libraries in Brent irrespective of what the Labour administration is doing. With an appeal now pending it is essential that the council maintains the current library services until the appeal process is completed.”
  • Library campaigners refused permission to appeal against High Court ruling - Brent and Kilburn Times.   “Campaigners battling to save six libraries in Brent from closure have been refused permission to appeal after they lost a High Court case this morning (Thursday).” …”However, campaigners are now set to appeal against the judge’s decision to refuse them permission to appeal.” [I love that sentence – Ed.]
  • Loony left is back in Labour’s Brent council - Mail.   “Just as left-wing councils refused to collect the poll tax in 1990 to destroy Margaret Thatcher. They are now determined to wreck local services such as the libraries, which are treasured by the middle classes, in the hope the Coalition will get the blame.”
“Conservative councils throughout the country are emulating Brent’s example as quickly as they can.  There is no political party in the country that stands up for literacy, libraries and community life.  You are all tarred with the same brush, unfortunately.   The floating voter can only float.  He has no harbour in which to rest if he wants to see his public library survive. So instead making a political point, why not do something useful and write to the Secretary of State and Culture Minister, requesting that they undertake their statutory duties and intervene to bring justice for the people of Brent ?  That would be nice.” Response to “Loony Left” mail piece by Shirley Burnham.

  • Margaret Bailey and others v. London Borough of Brent Council – High Court of Justice.   Judge dismisses all points of claim – council was serious in consultation, it had been well publicised and there was equalities problem.
  • Outcome of Brent judicial reviewVoices for the Library.  The victory for Brent council sends out a very worrying message for library campaigners everywhere.  Council leaders across the country may look to this ruling to justify library closures and will see this ruling as the legal backing they require to go ahead with planned library closures.  They would be wrong to do so. Mr Justice Ouseley remarked during this morning’s proceedings that he did not believe the ruling in Brent had wide significance across the country, but instead reflected a judgement purely on how Brent council had approached its local situation. Councils should not, therefore, see this outcome as an excuse to cut their own services in a similar way.”
  • Residents can expect just 3 functioning libraries in the 21st Century - Preston Library Campaign. “As Brent Council slashes library services in half, telling people to “buy books in Tesco” and “get on a bus”, little do residents realise that of the 6 remaining libraries, only 3 are ‘fit for purpose’. Kilburn “needs major upgrade”, Willesden Green is set to be knocked down and rebuilt and funding is being sought for Kingsbury to be rebuilt/enlarged. That leaves just 3 usable libraries in Brent Council’s vision of a “21st century library service”.” … “The new £ 3 million mega-library our cash-strapped council found money for. How convenient. At least for the council. It’s too far for children, the elderly and disabled (who most use the existing library) , there’s no parking and rising public trasport fares make this ‘free’ service, not so free.”
  • Six fought-over Brent libraries will remain shut for evermore - Harrow Observer.   “Former Tory Brent councillor Jack Sayers, of Halford Road near Cricklewood Library, said: “There were two police officers outside Cricklewood Library today as there has been some talk of a protest and I have heard that the library is going to be boarded up this evening. It is absolutely scandalous what they are trying to do, everybody is against what they are doing, it is just unbelievable that they are trying to close these libraries.”
  • UNISON response - UNISON.   Union “has warned councils that the verdict of a judicial review into Brent libraries, heard at the High Court today, should not be taken as a ‘green light’ to close services. Instead, the UK’s largest union said it should serve as a warning to authorities that community groups must be consulted on change.”… ““Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans, to force them to take over their libraries, or lose them. This will create a postcode lottery, with some communities going without libraries altogether, if groups fail to rise to the challenge. The Government must act to stop local authorities rushing through changes to services with no consultation. UNISON will continue to fight to protect library services from savage cuts, as community campaigns continue across the country. An investment in libraries is an investment in the future generation.”
  • We will continue the fight to save much-needed libraries - Preston Library Campaign.  “Today we got our verdict on Round 1 of Brent residents v the Labour Council. “…”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.”.  Includes official press release.
  • Workmen prepare to board up Kensal Rise Library - BookSeller.   “The library was closed this morning, with a notice on display saying it would be closed until 2pm to allow for a staff briefing. But when demonstrators returned from today’s High Court verdict, a further notice stated the library would be closed “until further notice.” Workmen have measured the building’s doors and windows and are preparing to board it up.”
“We will be studying this judgment carefully for its national implications. However there can be little doubt of the immense disappointment thousands of users in Brent and elsewhere will feel. Once again this has shown how much libraries mean to local people and once again both national and local politicians need to understand the depths of this feeling. Libraries should be seen as part of way out of the recession and not as an easy service to cut” Annie Mauger, CILIP.

Other News

  • It’s bonfire of the quangoes as Hogan slashes agencies - Herald [Eire].  “Mr Hogan hopes the dissolution of An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The Library Council) — a move he has just announced — will lead to savings in operating costs of €1m a year.” … “Mr Hogan acknowledged the cuts were a “direct response to the current economic crisis” and a “necessary means of contributing to the reduction of overall public sector costs through enhanced efficiency”. An Chomhairle Leabharlanna was established by the Public Libraries Act of 1947 and it provides advice and assistance to libraries, while also advising the Minister on policy issues.”
  • Library Cuts: the battle of the bookshelves - BBC.   Includes Brent, Waltham Forest, Oxfordshire, “It is hoped that volunteers will step in to staff scores of branches in Cambridgeshire, Camden and Cumbria. But the notion of replacing professional librarians has proved contentious. In Doncaster, where the council agreed on Wednesday to close two libraries and hand 12 branches to volunteers, Mayor Peter Davies was asked on BBC Radio whether volunteers would need training and support.”.  Lists librarian skills. … “Buckinghamshire is a relatively prosperous county with a sufficient pool of people with the time and skills to operate the local library. Trying to follow the same model in a busy town library in a deprived area would I think be unlikely to succeed.” … Hillingdon used as success story.
  • Why the time might be up for libraries - Telegraph.   “There are plans to use the money saved to open a new £3 million super library at the civic centre near Wembley Stadium. As a Brent resident who lives five miles from Wembley, this new super library will not do much good for me, though doubtless there will be a lovely opening ceremony.” … “There is no point keeping a library open if it no longer serves its function: a quiet place, with no worthy distractions, comfortable seats and hundreds of good books to lose yourself in.” … Suggests All Souls College (the landlord of one of the libraries) steps in and runs a traditional library service instead.

Local News

  • Bolton – Two hours and a lot of words - This is Lancashire.  “There was political posturing, plenty of name-calling, a bit of metaphorical finger pointing, but nothing in the way of real debate. The Lib Dems, two in number and both up for re-election next year, sought to distance themselves from the Tories” 
    • Shouts of shame at libraries meetingBolton News.   Includes video. “The decision will now go to a scrutiny committee on Monday and then, most likely, to a full council vote next Wednesday.But yesterday’s decision was essentially the final nail in the coffin for five branch libraries.” 
    • Library campaign statementSave Bolton Libraries (via Alan Gibbons).   ““Although hardly unexpected, this is a deeply disappointing decision, which we feel has ignored local opinion, and been poorly thought through. We do not believe these savings were necessary and they will make life worse for many vulnerable people in our community, especially families with children and people who can’t get around as easily.”
  • Conwy – Library campaigner Chris Draper outraged that £3,700 of public money is spent on Blackberry’s and phone calls by library bosses – North Wales Weekly News. “Five library managers have been issued with Blackberrys by Conwy County Council.”.  One of the phones was stolen and £2500 of calls were made.  … ““They are issued because the managers are ‘on call’ on a rota basis every Saturday morning and need to be contactable in an emergency. A Blackberry allows them to work from different locations, access e-mails and link to the corporate intranet and internet at times when libraries are open but other council offices are closed.”.  Seven branches could close but staffing costs could go up.
  • Doncaster – Council backs controversial Doncaster library plan - South Yorkshire Times.  “Mr Davies announced the decision at a packed cabinet meeting in the Mansion House yesterday where dozens of campaigners from the Save Doncaster Libraries turned up. The mayor was slammed for not allowing protestors to speak at the meeting with several campaigners being asked to leave amidst shouts of “shame on you” and “this is not democracy”.  Mayor says ““The money is just not around and there are certain people who have no concept of public finance and have no interest in putting forward alternative ideas to deal with this.”
    • Libraries handed over to volunteersYorkshire Post.   “A spokesman for the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign group said Doncaster Council had “failed the people of Doncaster in their shambolic approach to changes to the library service.” They added: “The Mayor has flatly refused to listen to solutions offered by the Labour group and has failed to investigate alternative methods of keeping libraries open. Instead, he has jumped at the massively problematic volunteer method.”
  • Dorset – Charmouth: Residents warned to fund, staff and use or lose library - Bridport News.  ““The ad hoc Friends of Charmouth Library Committee hopes to make the building of far more use in the future but needs to be sure that this is what residents want. We also need to elect a new Friends Committee, recruit more Friends and volunteers and know that there will be sufficient income to sustain running costs of around £4,500 a year.”.  Nine threatened libraries not statutory so council can withdraw funding at any time.
“Our campaign is run by Mums and Retirees – and we’ve said spread the cuts across the libraries, not no to cuts” Oxfordshire – Save Sonning Common Library (Twitter).  The leader of Oxfordshire claimed campaigners were militant lefties who wanted to shunt cuts to social care instead.

  • Somerset – Bishops Lydeard volunteers frustrated by library takeover delays - BBC. “But unlike the campaigners in Brent, who were fighting to keep the libraries under council control, the Bishops Lydeard volunteers have already accepted a similar proposal by Somerset County Council will go ahead. As a result, they have put together plans to run the library themselves but have been frustrated by legal challenges from groups trying to stop the move in other areas.” … “Bishops Lydeard library has occupied a 30 sq m room in an old building in the middle of the village for more than 40 years. When it was decided the library would be run as a community library, from 1 October, more than 130 volunteers signed up to help run it.” [That’s 4.3 volunteers per square meter – Ed.]