Brent library campaigners lose court bid against closures

Protesters outside Kensal Rise Library Protesters gathered as workmen arrived to board up Kensal Rise library

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Campaigners have lost their High Court bid to save six libraries in north-west London which were marked for closure to cut council spending.

Brent Council announced plans to shut half of its libraries in April.

Brent SOS Libraries sought the judicial review, arguing the decision failed to assess local needs and the impact of the closures.

The council confirmed the libraries had been closed following Thursday's ruling and were "being made secure".

The authority's lawyers had argued the decision was "rational".

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".

Protesters 'shocked'

About 150 protesters gathered outside Kensal Rise library to demonstrate against the decision.

Brent Libraries SOS campaign spokeswoman Margaret Bailey said: "At about 14:00 BST builders arrived who wanted to board up the windows and doors.

"But they were reluctant to cross the protest line."

At the scene

Campaigners for libraries outside the court

The dust had barely settled on the High Court's decision to rubber stamp the closure of six north-west London libraries.

And yet within hours their doors were padlocked and the services looked lost for good.

Following the decision, the head of the Brent Libraries SOS campaign, Margaret Bailey, urged the council to "take time" to close the doors.

But by lunchtime the large wooden doors at Kensal Rise Library were padlocked. Shortly after, workmen moved in to board up the building.

As they did about 100 protesters gathered, among them schoolchildren, chanting "save our library".

The police were called, but despite their pleas the protesters refused to budge.

Even as the light begins to fade, they remain there.

Ms Bailey said the protesters were "shocked that the council had moved so quickly" to close the libraries "before the protesters had had a chance to launch an appeal".

"We are determined to appeal," she added.

The case was being seen as a test case for other campaigners across the UK fighting to keep 400 libraries open.

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled there was no evidence to support the serious allegations made against the authority.

John Halford, solicitor for the campaigners, said: "Today's judgement means that half of Brent's libraries remain under threat and has very troubling implications for library closure decisions nationally."

Councillor Ann John, leader of the Labour-run council, said: "We are pleased that the judge, having carefully considered all the complaints, has found in the council's favour on each and every one."

The council wanted to close the libraries in Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Tokyngton, Preston, Cricklewood and Neasden by September.

Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, Sarah Teather, who is also Minister of State for Children and Families, said: "Local residents have made their opinions clear - they want the libraries to stay open and are willing to fight to make that happen - it is a real shame that Labour-run Brent Council are refusing to listen."

Celebrities such as playwright Alan Bennett, singer Nick Cave and the bands Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp had backed the campaign, with many contributing to the costs.

Helen Mountfield QC, for the residents, argued Brent Council had adopted "a fundamentally flawed and unlawful approach to the making of savings in its budget" and the local authority had failed to comply with equality legislation and consult the local community properly.

But 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.

Leader of Brent Council Ann John: ''Libraries flourish best in busy places''

Ms John said: "It means we can push ahead with our exciting plans to improve Brent's library service and offer a 21st Century service for the benefit of all our residents."

Ms Bailey said: "We believe that there are important points of principle at stake which 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."

Paul Lorber, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, said: "We are determined to save our libraries in Brent irrespective of what the Labour administration is doing."

The Department for Culture Media and Sport said it was considering the judgement.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    So now we lose our libraries, This is totally unfair to the public. It is the one facility that is highly appreciated for many reasons, social, academic,reference,community,information. So many uses and so well used, and decisions to close them are irresponsible. We should not have to fight for this facility when it is needed by all residents, schools and colleges,all ages.Shame on you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    It's sad that the Government is taking our center of knowledge away from our towns. I spent a large majority of my childhood in the local Library in Stockport, which I miss greatly since I moved away.

    My local library now is having a massive cut, there are less books on the shelves and humans have been replaced with machines that check your books out. What will happen to human interaction?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    It's all very well ordering a book on-line if you know what you want beforehand. But it doesn't replace the joy of browsing the shelves and being tempted by something you wouldn't normally read. This is particularly vital for widening children's reading: when my daughter was at junior school we would borrow 6 books at a time, picking some familiar series and some which were just 'different'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    I worked in Brent Libraries in the mid 80's and they survived ratecapping - just - now they are being cut again. London libraries should be looked at as a whole so that services can be made available rationally so that neighbouring boroughs cooperate and ensure everyone gets proper access to the Internet, books and public space

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    My local library in Bristol is a joy a lovely place to go with great helpful staff. The problem is very very few people use it. I have been in there recently and its been empty for all my visit. Realistically I probably use it 2 or 3 times a year.

    I wonder how many of these protesters actually use their local library?


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