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
    +4

    Comment number 220.

    Following threats to close local libraries in Milton Keynes, which are very well used and needed there was a local campaign to keep them open and the way it was fought was by encouraging every member to take out the maximum number of books and by the end of the week there were no books left, people power won and the libraries remained opened ...although no doubt cuts were made elsewhere instead..

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 219.

    brent is really sinking to new lows. 4 hours and 30 minutes after the ruling (which will be appealed), kensal rise is being boarded up right now

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 218.

    Good to know that so many people realise libraries are more than just about books and with increasing poverty and unemployment they are going to become even more essential - our leaders on all sides assume we are all kindle - computer owners - not so - some people also use libraries for warmth and shelter I may be joining them if we have a bad winter- shame on this connedem government -

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 217.

    @188

    You're right in one respect. LIbraries do carry much too much pulp fiction that has no real value other than passing time. Libraries should concentrate upon reference and quality top flight fiction.

    Still it has to be said that some libraries are far better than others.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 216.

    farkyss

    I shall visit my local library and look up the word 'scumbag'.

    It is probably listed under vulgarities and gutter snipe language!

    Are you a City chap by any chance? Your patter sounds familiar. Cheapside. The Clink?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 215.

    I use my local library a lot, especially when its cold or raining. I save a lot on my energy bills. They also have books I can read.

  • rate this
    +6

    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
    +3

    Comment number 213.

    @eddie37c, most people do get thier books, dvds and cds from the internet now, but allong with what others have said ( libraries having an invaluble use for the community), schools and sure start teaching kids to read.. many infant and primary schools get thier books from library services because they cannot afford to buy them, and many libraries co-ordinate the delivery of sure start items.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 212.

    The problem is that so few people use the libraries these days. My father works in our local library and during the school term it's very quiet. The internet, TV and outdoor/indoor sports have taken over in childrens lives whejn it comes to reading and with adults, well we are expected to work for so long when we have no time to read. I am luckily able to get 2 hours every day due to my commute.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 211.

    Libraries are grand places providing a fine service to communities (and they are open to everyone). Are there really no other ways to save money? I think of the many truly wasteful council projects (Edinburgh trams anyone?) and consider that libraries provide good value for money. Anyone arguing in favour of their closure is inherently selfish.

  • Comment number 210.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 209.

    Sadly, Councils continue to cut services rather than costs.
    I have some experience of the way local Councils are organised and managed and what I see in terms of waste, overstaffing and inefficiency, is deplorable. Despite the so-called pressures on them they retain the fat-cat approach at the expense of those they serve, the public. How effective is Mr Pickles, really?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 208.

    @firedrake2 "If you have no interest in libs fine but don't deride those who want them."

    Considering the tax payer foots the bill and people like you would not pay to support a private library, seems like deriding is the correct approach.

  • rate this
    +3

    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
    +1

    Comment number 206.

    The closures are likely to occur in Labour controlled areas because Tory Council's never botherd to invest in such public spirited institutions.

    Libraries first appeared via the Working mens Clubs late 19th Century, & because the nation was illiterate. Aristocrats had lavish libraries while vulgar industrialists bought by the yard, pretending they read books!

    Such is the state of the nation!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 205.

    @195.Rebecca Riot
    You still don't get it.
    Middle-england families are net benefit consumers
    Single mothers are net benefit consumers
    Scumbag benefit claimants are net benefit consumers

    Can it be made any clearer for you?

  • rate this
    +6

    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?

  • Comment number 203.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 202.

    164.jgharston
    yeah - because 11 grand for a 55-hour week is pure excessive luxery, innit.

    It's not the hours that you put in but what you put into the hours and the the tax paying public are not impressed!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 201.

    @43

    I couldn't have put it better myself.

 

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